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'You don't need no eyes to have soul'

John Capouya, who teaches journalism and nonfiction writing in the undergraduate and creative writing MFA programs at the University of Tampa and is working on a book on Florida soul musicians, had this piece in the April Floridian in yesterday's paper:

"I was in a dark place.

"When I started going blind, man, it just took my heart away. The doctor said it was glaucoma, and that I had waited too long to act on it.

"I stayed off the road and didn't perform for almost three years. I wouldn't go further than my front porch in Pensacola. I was scared to get run over or that somebody's going to rob me."

This was the '90s. His name was Bobby Purify then. He had taken the name 20 years before, when he joined James Purify in one of soul music's classic acts. For roughly a decade James and Bobby Purify played the Apollo in New York and the Howard in Washington, D.C., and toured England and Europe. Their version of I'm Your Puppet, which James Purify had earlier recorded with another man singing harmony, was a hit again, here and overseas. (That first man's name wasn't really Bobby Purify either. The act's producer just thought James Purify was the greatest soul name he'd ever heard, so he told each singer who joined the Florida duo: "You're Bobby Purify.'')

After the act broke up Bobby worked as a solo act for roughly 10 years, recorded a Grammy-nominated gospel album — and lost his sight.