Blind Boys of Alabama perform Dec. 17 at the Vilar Performing Arts Center | VailDaily.com

Blind Boys of Alabama perform Dec. 17 at the Vilar Performing Arts Center

God gave you hands and feet so you could stomp and clap along to music from The Blind Boys of Alabama.

For 75 years, they've performed all over God's green earth, and parts that aren't so green. They've earned every award you can imagine and the loyalty of millions of fans.

To the delight of those fans, they show no signs of slowing down. They perform Saturday night in the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek.

"We appreciate the accolades and we thank God for them," said Jimmy Carter, a founding member and The Blind Boys' current leader. "But we're not interested in money or anything other than singing gospel. We had no idea when we started that we would make it this far. The secret to our longevity is we love what we do. And when you love what you do, that keeps you motivated. That keeps you alive."

Musical legends

Some of The Blind Boys have been making music so long they remember whites-only bathrooms in the deep South and were part of the soundtrack for the Civil Rights movement.

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The original members first sang together as kids at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in the late 1930s (including Carter, who leads the group today).

That sound helped them flourish through the Jim Crow South of the 1940s and 1950s.

It's those 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. But gospel crowds began to dwindle, and many performers who had grown up in church drifted into secular popular music.

The Blind Boys refused go that direction, but persevered. By the 1980s, they were starring in the Obie Award-winning musical "The Gospel at Colonus," and so began yet another chapter in their long story.

They have won five Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and performed at the White House for three different presidents.

The Grammy-winning albums have found them working with the likes of Ben Harper, Aaron Neville, Mavis Staples, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Willie Nelson.

About the show

Today's show will feature all sorts of wonderfulness, especially selections from their most recent album, "Talkin' Christmas!," a collaboration with Taj Mahal.

It's not Christmas music like you might remember. The Blind Boys perform new versions of Christmas standards and covers of gospel gems. They also wrote seven new holiday songs, and you'll hear a couple of those.

Pay attention and you'll hear a hand-clapping rearrangement of the usually slower classic "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and an acoustic version of "Silent Night."

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

If You Go …

Who: The Blind Boys of Alabama

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17.

Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, 68 Avondale Lane, Beaver Creek.

Cost: $68 adults, $28 children

More information: Buy tickets online at vilarpac.org.