COUNTRY MUSIC LEGEND
CHARLEY PRIDE DIES AT AGE 86
Charley Pride, whose rich baritone voice and song-sense altered American culture, died Saturday, December 12, 2020, in Dallas, Texas of complications from Covid-19 at age 86.
Born in Sledge, Mississippi a sharecropper’s the son of Tessie Stewart Pride and Mack Pride, Sr. on March 18, 1934. Pride left the Southern cotton fields to eventually become Country music’s first Black superstar and the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. As quoted by Darius Rucker in the film Charley Pride: I'm Just Me, “No person of color had ever done what he has done.”
Although Pride was not the first Black artist to make important contributions to Country music as DeFord Bailey was a star of the Grand Ole Opry from 1927 through 1941, Pride was a huge trailblazer who also emerged during a time in history of great division.
Pride, a gifted athlete who had a lifelong passion for baseball thought that it would be baseball that would be his path out of poverty. After a stint in the Army, time working at a Missouri smelting plant, and some unsuccessful attempts to break into big-league baseball, Pride arrived in Nashville in 1963 and made demo recordings with help from manager Jack Johnson.
The recordings idled until Jack Clement offered songs for Pride to learn. On August 16, 1965, Clement produced Pride at RCA Studio B, and that session impressed RCA’s Chet Atkins, who signed Pride to a recording contract. History confirms that Country music, not baseball, was his ultimate route to superstardom. Charlie Pride would emerge as one of the most significant artists at RCA Records, with chart-topping hits including “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” and “Mountain of Love.”
Winning the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award in 1971, its top male vocalist prize in 1971 and 1972, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020, Pride's final performance took place 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, who counts Pride among his heroes.
During the twenty year period from 1967 to 1987, Pride delivered 52 Top 10 country hits, won Grammy awards, and became RCA Records’ best selling Country artist. His superior talents opened not doors but also minds that superseded the prejudice of the day. As Pride wrote in his memoir, "We’re not color blind yet, but we’ve advanced a few paces the path and I like to think I’ve contributed something to that process." Humble as always, Pride underestimated his impact and contribution.
Charley Pride escaped the cotton fields, where labor would take a toll on workers' spirits, hands, back, and knees. Through perseverance, fortitude and talented artistry, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and a beloved worldwide Icon. Today, artists of all ethnic background are adding new chapters to Country music’s story and Charley Pride’s impact should be evident and important to all of them. Charlie Pride opened the door for every Country performer, no matter what ethnicity to have the opportunity to grace Country music with their talents and styles.
Charley Pride was the husband of Ebby Rozene Cohran Pride and the father of Carlton Kraig Pride, Charles Dion Pride, and Angela Rozene Pride. He was a grandfather, a great grandfather, a brother, and an uncle.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to The Pride Scholarship at Jesuit College Preparatory School,
St. Philips School and Community Center, The Food Bank, or the charity of your choice.
By Deborah Gibson