Sad news to report…Charley Pride, the pioneering black country singer known for such hits as “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” and “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” has died in Dallas, Texas, from complications related to Covid-19, according to his publicist. He was 86.
Born in Sledge, Mississippi, in 1934, Pride picked cotton, played baseball in the Negro leagues, served in the U.S. Army, and worked in a smelting plant in Montana before moving to Nashville and becoming country music’s first black superstar. He scored 52 Top 10 country hits, including 29 Number Ones, and was the first African-American performer to appear on the Grand Ole Opry stage since Deford Bailey made his debut in the 1920s. Pride became an Opry member in 1993. In 2000, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame…….
Despite being such an important black figure in country music, Pride never felt defined by his race, even when peppered with questions about it by the press. “I never see anything but the staunch American Charley Pride,” he told NPR in a 2017 interview.
“They says, ‘Charley, how did it feel to be the Jackie Robinson of country music? How did it feel to be the first colored country singer? How did it feel to be the first Negro country singer? How did it feel to be the first black country singer?’ It don’t bother me, other than I have to explain it to you how I maneuvered around all these obstacles to get to where I am today…. I’ve got a great-grandson and [grand] daughter and they gonna be asking them that too if we don’t get out of this crutch we’ve been in all these years… this ‘them’ and ‘us.’”
In a 2019 documentary about his life and career, Pride did recall one particularly tense concert, however. It was in Big Springs, Texas, on April 4, 1968 — the date of Martin Luther King’s assassination. “I got onstage, nobody said nothin’,” Pride said. “They applauded, I got a standing ovation. I didn’t say nothin’ about nothin’ pertaining to what had happened. But it was hanging there, what had happened and me the only one there with these pigmentations. You don’t forget nothin’ like that.”
Dolly Parton, who sang with Pride on the duet “God’s Coloring Book,” remembered the country star in a tweet on Saturday. “I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away,” she wrote. “It’s even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you.”
Just last month, Pride, a three-time Grammy winner, was honored by the Country Music Association with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
He performed on the telecast with country singer Jimmie Allen, recreating “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’.” It would be Pride’s final performance.[RollingStone.com]
Pride is survived by his wife, Ebby Rozene Cohran Pride, three children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, his representative said.
Pride’s indelible mark on pop culture will never be forgotten. His legacy will live on…. may he rest in peace.