Named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time, Richard Thompson is also one of the world’s most critically acclaimed and prolific songwriters. He has received Lifetime Achievement Awards for Songwriting on both sides of the Atlantic – from the Americana Music Association in Nashville to Britain’s BBC Awards as well as the prestigious Ivor Novello. In 2011, Thompson received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) personally bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. In the USA Thompson has been nominated at the Americanas for both “Artist of the Year” and “Song of the Year”. His recently released CD, Still was produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy which reached #6 in the UK charts (just ahead of Taylor Swift)!
The Blind Boys of Alabama
The Blind Boys of Alabama have the rare distinction of being recognized around the world as both living legends and modern-day innovators. They are not just gospel singers borrowing from old traditions; the group helped to define those traditions in 20th century and almost single-handedly created a new gospel sound for the 21st. Since the original members first sang together as kids at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in the late 1930s (including Jimmy Carter, who leads the group today), the band has perserved through seven decades to become one of the most recognized and decorated roots music groups in the world.
Touring throughout the South during the Jim Crow era of the 1940s and 1950s, the Blind Boys flourished thanks to their unique sound, which blended the close harmonies of early jubilee gospel with the more fervent improvisations of hard gospel. In the early 1960s, the band sang at benefits for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and were a part of the soundtrack to the Civil Rights movement. It’s almost unbelievable that a group of blind, African-American singers, who started out touring during a time of of whites-only bathrooms, restaurants and hotels, went on to win five Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, be inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and to perform at the White House for three different presidents.