George Scott, RIP

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I'm nearly a month late to note it, but George Scott of the Blind Boys of Alabama died March 9. If it's possible to be a hip gospel group, then the Blind Boys are the hippest holy men around—and deservedly so. I've seen them play twice, in 1997 and in 2001, and they're pretty much the best live act in the universe.

The core group, only two of whom remain today, started singing together in 1939; they were stars on the gospel circuit in the '50s, and they've enjoyed three waves of crossover success in the last 25 years. The first came with Lee Breuer's 1983 play The Gospel at Colonus, which reimagined Oedipus Rex as a black church service with the Blind Boys as the Greek chorus. The second followed their profile-raising record Deep River, produced by Stax organist Booker T. Jones in 1992. The third began when they signed with Peter Gabriel's RealWorld label in 2001, unleashing an amazing series of CDs that continues with the just-released Atom Bomb.

If you own their 2001 album Spirit of the Century, cue up track three, the old spiritual "Run On For a Long Time." That's George Scott on the lead vocals, sounding like a wizzened old rapper who's just found God. It's one of the best recordings of the new century, sung by one of the best singers of the last one. May he rest in peace.

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  1. Is the song “Run On for a Long Time” the track Moby used on “Play”?

  2. Same song, different recording. (Moby’s version came out two years before the Blind Boys did theirs.)

  3. The Blind Boys of Alabama also did a reeeeeally cool version of the Oedipus cycle. They were the “Greek chorus,” and some of them played the main characters but sung their parts. One of the neatest things I’ve ever seen.

  4. That’s the Gospel at Colonus show I mentioned in the post. Click through the link to buy the original cast album; it’s great stuff.

  5. I’m not at all familiar with his music, but he was great in Patton.

  6. Hey! That “Amazing Grace” to the same melody as The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” kicks ass. The other tracks sound interesting too — might be good for my next long boring road trip. I might have to buy that CD.

    Ditto for the “Atom Bomb” CD with “Spirit in the Sky.” Thanks for costing me about $27, Walker!

  7. I’m not at all familiar with his music, but he was great in Patton.

    Stevo, not only was he great in that movie, he was also a 3-time All-Star, won 8 Golden Gloves and led the American League in Home Runs and RBIs in 1975

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/s/scottge02.shtml

  8. Hah! The Fairfield Four smoke the Blind Boys any day of the week. Dickie Freeman’s bass voice simply has to be heard to be believed. I’ve never seen a guy who could articulate notes so clearly in that register – when you get that low, the best most people can do is rumble.

  9. I concur.

    Damn.

  10. Why did the blind boys play the chorus? Couldn’t they have played Oedipus himself? I mean, since he’s already blind and all…

  11. They’re from Alabama, so being upset about the incest thing wouldn’t have been convincing coming from them. I suppose.

  12. All this gospel/roots music talk and not a single Holmes Brothers reference?

    Shame on all of you.

  13. I’ve heard a lot of the Blind Boys stuff, and saw them open for Gabriel, and it simply does nothing for me. Perhaps I have no soul.

  14. OK, Douglas, you just made … The List.

  15. All this gospel/roots music talk and not a single Holmes Brothers reference?

    Are you talking about Sherlock and his brother Mycroft?

  16. Don’t know much about Sherlock, but Mike was dinkum comrade, cobber!

  17. My first introduction to the Blind Boys was their appearances on Later with Jools Holland. Higher Ground and Spirit of the Century are fantastic albums. I’ve got a couple of tracks queued up just for you, George.

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