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How Sweet the Sound -- The Blind Boys of Alabama

Leslie McCleave

What defines a life’s work? Examining this question through an intimate portrait of The Blind Boys of Alabama, one of the last great gospel quartets.

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The men that would become the Blind Boys of Alabama met as children in the 1930s at the Talladega Institute for the Blind, a segregated state-run vocational school where conditions were uniformly harsh. While the school had a formal choir, the group instead modeled themselves on their heroes, the Golden Gate Quartet. Buoyed by their local popularity –the boys used to sneak off campus to perform at a nearby military base–and faced with the bleak career choice of making brooms and mops for a living, the blind youngsters quit school and hit the road.

Riding out the ups and downs of gospel’s popularity, through segregation, the 1950s golden era of gospel, declining fortunes with rock n roll’s arrival, their resurgence in popularity with the Broadway hit ‘Gospel at Colonus,’ and multiple Grammy awards, the Blind Boys of Alabama continue to tour well into their 70s and 80s.

As the surviving band members recount their unlikely success story, we see a rare, frank view of life on and off the road with these renowned performers. Filmed over the course of ten years, “How Sweet the Sound”, a feature-length documentary, is the first film to tell the story of one of the last great gospel quartets traversing the famed “gospel highway” and beyond.