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Gospel and R&B Singer, Benjamin Moore Jr., Dead at 80

Ben Moore (fourth from left) was a member of the Blind Boys
of Alabama for 14 years, following a successful solo career.
Benjamin Moore Jr., an R&B and gospel singer whose lauded career spanned more than five decades, died May 12 at 80.

The Blind Boys of Alabama, the mutli-Grammy Award-winning gospel group he joined after losing his eyesight following a successful solo career — and of which he spent 14 years as a member — confirmed the death.

"The Blind Boys of Alabama are heartbroken to report that our beloved brother and co-singer Ben Moore has passed away," the group posted on its official Instagram account.

Bandmate Ricky McKinnie added, “The Blind Boys family is deeply saddened by Ben’s passing. He was an integral part of our group, not just as a talented singer but as a kind and dependable friend. Although he will be sorely missed, I’m grateful for the years of memories.”

The group said Moore died of natural causes at a hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, ending an era that began in 2008 when he joined the group, whose original members met in the 1930s at the Alabama Institute for the Blind, after glaucoma obliterated his vision.

He sang on five albums with the band, including 2008’s "Down in New Orleans" which won the Grammy for Best Traditional Gospel Album. In 2010, Moore performed at the White House for an event celebrating music from the Civil Rights movement, and he was still touring with the group when it wrapped up a tour with Mali-based pop duo Amadou and Mariam earlier this month.

Prior to joining the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Atlanta native (born Aug. 7, 1941) had been a gospel and R&B music mainstay for decades.

He was singing and playing guitar by the age of 14 and often toured and performed with his father, Benjamin Moore Sr.'s gospel group Echoes of Zion. In the late '60s and early '70s, he was a member of various groups including Jimmy Tig and the Rounders and Ben and Spence.

He replaced the “original” Bobby Purify in the soul duo James and Bobby Purify in the mid-seventies and released two albums for the group which continued to tour together in the eighties. During this time he also recorded as a solo artist, sometimes as Bobby Purify and under his own name at others.

He released an R&B album and three gospel records. In 983, his song, “He Believes in Me,” lost to Al Green’s “Precious Lord" for Best Soul Gospel Performance — Traditional at the Grammys.

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