Frank Bey released his final album in January 2020, putting an exclamation point on a music career that stretched over five decades. Five months later, the Philadelphia blues singer who grew up in the Jim Crow South in Millen, Ga., died at age 74, after a yearslong struggle with kidney disease.

But after Bey’s death, his star continues to burn bright. On Sunday, All My Dues Are Paid is up for a Grammy for best traditional blues album. He’s posthumously competing against blues and soul greats Robert Cray, Bobby Rush, Don Bryant, and Jimmy “Duck” Holmes.

And whether or not he wins during the afternoon ceremony that will precede the Grammy telecast — with Trevor Noah hosting on CBS at 8 p.m. — Bey’s story will continue to be told.

All My Dues Are Paid, which was Bey’s second album released on the Lancaster, Pa., label Nola Blue Records, is also nominated for two Blues Music Awards, which will be given out in Memphis in June.

And since 2016, Bey’s supporters — including his late-career manager Tom Dwyer, filmmaker Marie Hinson, and his widow Toni Bey — have been working on a documentary of the singer who grew up on gospel music and later came to be known as “the Southern gentleman of the blues.”

“When I was a child, a little kid down in Georgia walking in the woods on those dirt roads,” Bey says in Frank Bey: You’re Going to Miss Me, which is in postproduction and is aiming for film festivals in 2022, “I could see that one day, I was going to be on the big stage. I was going to be singing to the world.”

Bey’s road to recognition was long. He left home at 17 to come to Philadelphia to pursue his musical dreams and try to outrun Southern racism, which he called “a collective form of insanity” in a 2016 interview with The Inquirer.

He sings about his upbringing on “All My Dues Are Paid,” which was originally written by Kathy Murray. Nola Blue owner Sallie Bengtson brought it to Bey, who rewrote it with Kid Anderson and Rick Estrin, who coproduced the album.

“I was born way down in Georgia, 1940s, Black and poor,” Bey sings. “It took every bit of strength I had to crack that Jim Crow door.”

In the 1960s, Bey was a driver for soul great Otis Redding and watched from the wings as Sam & Dave and Joe Tex performed.

Based in Philadelphia, he sang with Prophecy, and then was colead singer of Moorish Vanguard, an R&B funk band who were all members of the Moorish Science Temple of America in North Philadelphia.

The band’s flamboyant show featured handmade costumes that the singer sewed himself, says Toni Bey. In keeping with the stylistic excesses of 1970s acts like Parliament-Funkadelic, they wore turbans and “fluffy bell-bottom pants, very colorful,” she says.

Moorish Vanguard’s closest brush with success led to their demise. The band cut a song called “Sitting in the Sunshine of Your Love” in Augusta, Ga., that James Brown offered to take to his New York record label.

Months later, during a tour of Florida, the group heard the song on the radio, credited to the Godfather of Soul. “The band actually thought Brown and I had conspired against them,” Bey told Blues Blast magazine in 2018.

The group broke up, and Bey returned to Philadelphia, embittered. He wouldn’t perform again for 17 years.

They thought they’d work me til they used me up
But I had to draw the line
They didn’t know there ain’t no way to stop Frank Bey
It’s my time to shine!
Frank Bey, “All My Dues Are Paid”

“He never sang around the house,” says Toni Bey, who met her future husband when she worked at the Broad Street Diner and Bey was driving a yellow cab. “I guess you could call it depression, but he didn’t want to admit that.”

Frank Bey ran a construction business, and owned Chappy’s Seafood in North Philly and Smith’s Bar at Broad and Olney.

At the latter, he built a stage for bands to play on, and one night his friend Frank Austin called him out to sing. “I was in my apron, holding a spatula, and we did the Lou Rawls song ‘Lady Love,’ “ Bey recalled in 2016.

That was all it took: He sold his businesses and again concentrated on music. His first solo album, Steppin’ Out, came out in 1998, and while he was temporarily constrained as he waited for a kidney transplant, which came though in 2004, he went on to record seven more albums, including three with California guitarist Anthony Paule.

‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’

Bey’s late-career manager Dwyer is a former Cheltenham High School English teacher who has immersed himself in arts and entertainment in retirement, singing with the Philly Pops and acting in Philly-made films like A Rose on Ninth.

The two first met when a friend suggested Bey’s life was worthy of a movie. But Dwyer didn’t know the name. And then, he says, he heard a spirit-lifting voice coming over a streaming blues channel on his TV and had a Frank Bey conversion experience. “It was just one of those voices that just reached right out.”

Frank Bey: You’re Gonna Miss Me is a first foray into filmmaking for Dwyer, who’s executive producer. He had acted in student films that Hinson directed while at Temple University, and the two of them set out to make a promotional short about Bey.

Five years in, it is now a feature-length film, which Dwyer says has cost $150,000. They now need $100,000 for postproduction.

“There’s a real charisma and groundedness to Frank that I was drawn to,” says Hinson. “I remember when we were backstage with him in Memphis at the Blues Music Awards in 2016 in this huge ballroom, and I asked him if he was nervous. He said, ‘No. I’m just where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there.’ It’s just really cool to be around that kind of energy.”

Bey “just had this quiet dignity about him,” says Nola Blue owner Bengtson. She’s proud of both Bey’s 2018 album Back in Business and All My Dues Are Paid because artists of Bey’s vintage “are dying out, and it’s so important to honor them and all that they gave to turn their pain into beautiful music.”

Bey struggled to continue to make music as his kidney troubles returned toward the end of his life.

“He had to take 17 meds a day at one point,” Dwyer remembers. “He just didn’t have the money sometimes to buy all those meds, as well as the groceries.”

Toni Bey says: “It was a struggle, but you just have to make the most of everything. He was more concerned about getting himself back together and getting back up on stage.”

All My Dues Are Paid is full of deeply felt interpretations of unexpected songs that are especially powerful coming from a singer looking back late in life, such as Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

“He really was phenomenal,” Dwyer says. “I consider the last five years among the richest and most rewarding that I’ve had in my life. And it’s all because of Frank.”

Nola Blue couldn’t afford a Grammy promotional campaign, so when news of a nomination came in November, it came as a surprise.

“When I heard, I was running around, kicking heels,” Toni Bey says. “You would have thought I won it. Frank would have been much more reserved. But inside he would have been kicking heels. We used to talk about how it would be nice to win something like this, and he would say, ‘Where’s there’s life, there’s hope.’ ”