Spirit of the Century

Our Own Story


By The Blind Boys of Alabama

With Preston Lauterbach

Formats and Prices




$39.00 CAD

An insider history of the Blind Boys of Alabama, the longest running group in American music, and the untold story of their world, written with band members and key musical colleagues.

The Blind Boys of Alabama are the quintessential Gospel vocal group, and the longest-running musical institution in America. Their story intersects with pivotal moments and issues in American history and is an ideal prism through which to trace music, culture, history, and race in America. Spirit of the Century invites readers to follow along the Blind Boys’ eight-decade journey together from a segregated trade school, through the rough and tumble indie record game and grinding tour schedule of the golden age of gospel, to starring in an iconic Broadway musical, performing at the White House for three presidents twice, collaborating with Tom Petty, Lou Reed, and Ben Harper, among others, singing the theme song for “The Wire,” and winning five Grammys.  More than just a story of the Blind Boys' illustrious career, Spirit of the Century also sheds new light on the larger world of African American gospel music, its origins, and the colorful characters at its center. 

Though there have been several iterations of the group over the decades, Spirit of the Century rounds up all surviving members of the group as contributors to the telling of their own story, and a result, the book offers a unique and intimate perspective on the group's enduring success. Current drummer and road manager Rickie McKinney has been with the group throughout its renaissance, while guitarist Joey Williams, the group’s sighted member, has been the eyes of the Blind Boys since 1992. Octogenarian Jimmy Lee Carter has a fascinating history, as a fellow student of the original but deceased Blind Boys Clarence Fountain, George Scott, Olice Thomas, Johnny Fields, J.T. Hutton, and Velma Traylor at the Talladega school. Carter is one of a few performers who have been in both the Blind Boys of Alabama and Mississippi. He fronts the Alabama group today as a classic quartet leader and fiery preacher. Along with extensive interviews of Fountain, these legendary musicians provide this book with the voice, firsthand perspective, and authenticity that bring their story the same inspirational power that you hear in their songs.

Thought-provoking, heartfelt, and deeply inspiring, Spirit of the Century is a fascinating and one-of-a-kind read that you won't be able to put down.


  • “For more than seventy-five years since my Gospel-singing, schoolteacher mother introduced me to the Five Blind Boys from Alabama, we have been graced with their magnificent music, their thundering, harmonic power that moves soul and spirit. They’ve stood the test of time and they’re still striking hot iron with every note. Get on board with Spirit of the Century—people get ready, this is the train that’s comin’!”
    Taj Mahal
  • “This is a story you WANT to know. If you know anything about The Blind Boys of Alabama—spirit, heart, and determination go into this fabulous blend of voices and music.  And you will understand the struggle, not just theirs but all of ours.”
    Whoopi Goldberg
  • “This is an extraordinary story of an extraordinary group—a wonderful account of how these young men conquered their difficulties to become one of the most legendary and inspirational groups of our time.”
    Peter Gabriel
  • “Gospel fans will have a hard time putting down this crowd-pleaser.”
    Publisher's Weekly
  • “The Blind Boys of Alabama have enjoyed an astonishing career marked by an unwavering work ethic, inspired collaboration, and mesmerizing live performances… A riveting and excting read.”
  • “A riveting celebration of the Blind Boys of Alabama’s glorious and often unpredictable musical journey.”
    Arts Fuse
  • “Every page of Spirit of the Century teems with stories of the group’s challenges and triumphs.”
    No Depression
  • "Spirit of the Century is as entertaining and filled with joie de vivre as the Blind Boys themselves."
    Living Blues
  • “[The book] offers a rousing view of the old gospel highway…and provides a rare chance to pause and take stock for a group that has been moving forward for almost 90 years.”
    Washington Post

On Sale
Mar 19, 2024
Page Count
320 pages
Hachette Books

The Blind Boys of Alabama

About the Author

The Blind Boys of Alabama are the longest running group in American music and have been performing gospel music since 1939. In addition to being inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, they have won numerous honors for the music, including five Grammy Awards, and were presented with the coveted Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. This is their first book.

Preston Lauterbach (coauthor) is the author/co-author of numerous books, including Brother Robert, Bluff CityBeale Street Dynasty, and The Chitlin'Circuit. He lives near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Learn more about this author