Just when we thought 2020’s done giving us heartbreaking news, famous singer Charley Pride died on Saturday at the age of 86 from complications related to coronavirus.
Charley Pride was the first Black superstar of country music and the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Pride was born in Mississippi in 1934, to sharecropper parents. He played professional baseball and served in the US army before moving to Nashville in 1963 to pursue a career in music.
Just a few years later, he became a country superstar. His rich baritone voice and impeccable song-sense altered the American music culture, which was then dominated by whites.
He emerged as one of the most significant artists of RCA Records, with chart-topping this including Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’, Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone and Mountain of Love. He won the Country Music Assocaition’s Entertainer of the Year award in 1971, its top male vocalist prize in 1971 and 1972, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.
According to his website, Charley Pride’s final performance came on November 11, 2020, when he sang Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’ during the CMA Awards show at Nashville’s Music City Center with Jimmie Allen, a modern-day hitmaker who counts Pride among his musical heroes.
Charley Pride was not the first Black artist to make important contributions to country music – DeFod Bailey was a star from 1927 through 1941. But Pride was a trailblazer who emerged during a time of division and rancor in America.
Between 1967 and 1987, Pride had 52 Top 10 country hits, won Grammy awards and became his record company’s top-selling artist. To say that his musical talent superseded prejudice may still come as an understatement.
“We’re not color blind yet, but we’ve advanced a few paces along the path and I like to think I’ve contributed something to that process,” Pride wrote in his memoir.
Former US President George W. Bush led tributes to the country music superstar on Saturday, describing him as a “fine gentleman with a great voice.”
“Laura and I love his music and the spirit behind it. Plus, he knew baseball: Charley was a big Texas Rangers fans and a player himself. Laura and I send our condolences to Charley and Rozene’s sons and daughter, their extended family, and his countless fans. May God bless Charley Pride.”
As we all mourn Charley Pride’s passing, Rolling Stone has compiled 10 of his most remarkable songs here.