Pioneering Country Legend Charley Pride Has Died
Country Music Hall of Famer, Grand Ole Opry member, and pioneering black country artist Charley Pride has passed away due to complications of COVID-19. He died on December 12th at the age of 86 in Dallas, TX.
Born in Sledge, Mississippi as the forth child of 11 children to a sharecropper, Charley Pride challenged the notion that country music was a white man’s genre. Between 1967 and 1987, Pride delivered 52 Top 10 country hits, and had 29 #1’s. He won the CMA’s coveted Entertainer of the Year in 1971, along with Male Vocalist of the Year in 1971 and 1972. Along with Grammy Awards and other accolades, Charley Pride was one of the most successful, accomplished, and influential country artists of all time.
Born on March 18, 1934, Pride first began playing music at the age of 14 after his mother bought him a guitar and he taught himself how to play. But Pride’s first brush with fame would not be in music, it would be in sports. In 1952 he joined the Memphis Red Sox as a pitcher, which began his career in the Negro American League. Pride was once traded from the Louisville Clippers to the Birmingham Black Barrons for a team bus—the only player trade in baseball history that included a motor vehicle.
Pride’s dream of making it in the major leagues was cut short when he was drafted into the US Army in 1956. However he continued his baseball career while enlisted for the “All Army” team, and returned to civilian baseball after being discharged, playing in the Pioneer league, and trying out for The California Angels and New York Mets.
Pride’s struggles in baseball ultimately resulted in great success in country music. Though some accounts say executives at RCA tried to hide Pride’s race concerned that country fans would react adversely, pride himself said, “People didn’t care if I was pink. RCA signed me… they knew I was colored…They decided to put the record out and let it speak for itself.” Nonetheless, the power of Pride’s voice broke down racial barriers, resulting in wide success of not just Charley Pride in country music, but bridging the music to many members of the black community.
While still pursuing baseball, Pride began performing in clubs, and was encouraged along the way by artists such as Red Foley and Red Sovine. He formed a four-piece band called the Night Hawks while living in Montana, and eventually sent a demo tape to producer Chet Atkins, who ultimately singed Pride to RCA Records in 1966.
By the mid 70’s, Charley Pride was RCA’s best-selling artist since Elvis Presley. Pride became the first black country artists to sing at the Grand Ole Opry (harmonica player DeFord Bailey was the first performer), where he was invited to become a member in 1993. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017, and just this November at the 2020 CMA Awards, received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
But beyond the accolades, it’s songs like “Kiss An Angle Good Morning,” “Just Between You and Me,” and “I Can’t Believe You Stopped Loving Me,” that put so much of human emotion into song in a way that nobody else could. Charley Pride became the voice of a generation.
Though the media and many other wanted to make race the central theme of Charley Pride’s career, Pride never did. It’s was Pride’s mere presence, his talent, and the way he quietly disproved the myths behind racism that made him so important and pioneering.
READ: CMAs Issue Statement After Concerns Over The Death of Charley Pride
Charley Pride was the son of Tessie Stewart Pride and Mack Pride, Sr., and the husband of Ebby Rozene Cohran Pride. His children are Carlton Kraig Pride, Charles Dion Pride, and Angela Rozene Pride. His grandchildren are Carlton Kraig Pride, Jr., Malachi Pride, Syler Pride, Ebby Pride, and Arrentino Vassar. His two great-grandchildren are Skyler Pride and Carlton Kraig Pride, III. He is preceded in death by brothers Jonas McIntyre, Mack Pride, Jr., Louis Pride, Edward Pride, and Joe L. Pride, and by sister Bessie Chambers. He leaves behind siblings Harmon Pride, Stephen Pride, Catherine Sanders, and Maxine Pride, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
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.
December 12, 2020 @ 1:51 pm
I really hope he didn’t get COVID when he was in person at that awful award show last month
December 12, 2020 @ 2:52 pm
I think this is a very fair concern. I think the timing COULD line up with Charley Pride contracting the virus either at the CMAs or on his way to or from. I am definitely looking into it as I’m sure many others in the media are. But I would also caution folks from saying the CMAs killed Charley Pride. We don’t know that at this point. We may never know where he contracted the virus. The CMAs did have COVID protocols in place, and remember, excluded multiple artists who had both tested positive or had potentially been exposed to the virus from the presentation, including Lady A, Tyler Hubbard from Florida Georgia Line, and fiddler Jenee Fleenor. That said, there were fair concerns about the lack of social distancing by some during the awards, let alone what was going on behind-the-scenes, or what Pride may have been exposed to on his travel to and from the event.
December 12, 2020 @ 3:06 pm
You can (& often are) contagious with covid for days prior to testing positive. A negative test works if you are quarantining for several days prior to the test. Additionally at the cma’s they were in an indoor area without masks for several hours. 6ft is for short encounters (indoors) not hours. This is why indoor dining is a major transmission source. Did Charlie definitely get it from the cma’s? No. But did their protocols scream potential covid event, yes.
December 12, 2020 @ 5:12 pm
Also there have been cases occurring of people outright lying about results or getting tested. Not to add fuel to a fire but that is occurring.
December 12, 2020 @ 9:17 pm
In a situation like the CMAs they would have computer access to test info via sign in with password.. My husband works on TV sports shows, most recently UFC and they do one test, stick everybody in a hotel bubble for 24 hours then retest. They control the tests so there is no way people can cheat. Also crew wears masks . So far nobody has gotten sick.
I am assuming CMAs had similarly strict rules.
December 12, 2020 @ 3:34 pm
It’s been a month since the CMAs (November 11th). Either way, another death on the bloody hands of our dysfunctional government.
December 12, 2020 @ 6:21 pm
The Chinese government you mean
December 12, 2020 @ 6:24 pm
It originated there, but our government’s response was fatal even with the head start.
December 13, 2020 @ 7:03 pm
Like when the president tried to shut down travel from China and the left called it xenophobia?
Both sides made it political but one side did it to win an election.
December 12, 2020 @ 9:58 pm
Jeez, these dysfunctional crackers are so self-centered.
December 12, 2020 @ 1:53 pm
Never one time did I ever dream you wouldn’t live forever
John R Baker
December 12, 2020 @ 1:54 pm
The timing a month after the CMA’s is worrisome.
December 12, 2020 @ 2:00 pm
Saw Charley Pride several times at the Opry and Ryman. Loved those performances, and his recordings. We will miss him. Damn COVID-19.
December 12, 2020 @ 2:03 pm
So sad – my late husband and I went to his shows here in San Antonio before he “made it big” and he remained one of our favorites forever. My late brother in law was in his band for years. He will be missed.
December 12, 2020 @ 2:05 pm
Wonderful singer, rest in peace and kiss all those angels good morning.
Sir Adam the Great
December 12, 2020 @ 2:14 pm
I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it.
Thank you, Mr. Pride.
December 12, 2020 @ 2:15 pm
December 12, 2020 @ 2:20 pm
Awful to hear this. Rest in peace Charley and thank you for all the wonderful music.
December 12, 2020 @ 2:28 pm
Since I don’t know how Trigger is about posting YouTube links, I’ll just say I think a good way to remember the awesomeness of Mr. Pride’s career is pick a favorite song of his and then play The Song Is Over By The Who to remember him and the other greats we’ve lost this stupid horrible year. While we may lose the earthly presence of greats like Charley Pride, Charlie Daniels, Kenny Rogers and Neil Peart and others who’ve sadly died this stupid year their music, their influence and their inspiration will live on forever. As the chorus goes. “I’ll sing my song to the wide open spaces/I’ll sing my heart out to the infinite sea/I’ll sing my visions to the sky and mountains/I’ll sing my song to the free.” I can certainly say Charley Pride is doing that
December 12, 2020 @ 2:29 pm
So sad to hear this new about Charley. Had the pleasure of seeing him perform a few times at The Opry and the Ryman,great to watch a true artist . He will be missed ..Hoping the Angels are Kissing him Good Morning. RIP Charley.
December 12, 2020 @ 2:40 pm
Rest In Peace Charley. And thanks for the article Trigger.
December 12, 2020 @ 2:43 pm
So sorry, I first heard his songs on AFR, while I was in the service. I loved his voice.
I never saw a picture of him till I got back to the states. Didn’t matter, still loved him.
Thank you Mr. Pride
King Honky Of Crackershire (Mask-Free and grieving Charley)
December 12, 2020 @ 2:48 pm
That’s the loss of the year. Dad gum.
December 12, 2020 @ 3:58 pm
Are we ranking our deaths now?
King Honky Of Crackershire (Mask-free and grieving Charley)
December 12, 2020 @ 4:14 pm
Charley was my favorite living singer. He died. That’s the loss of the year.
December 12, 2020 @ 4:28 pm
Fair enough. I am sorry.
December 12, 2020 @ 4:44 pm
Maybe if people like you weren’t “mask free” this wouldn’t happen
December 12, 2020 @ 2:53 pm
And 2020 keeps rolling on. RIP Charlie.
December 12, 2020 @ 2:57 pm
The year 2020 is the most tragic year for country music performers since 1963. In fact, it greatly eclipses 1963 in that category.
December 12, 2020 @ 2:59 pm
What a loss – such a marvelous voice. I’m so glad I was able to appreciate him while he was alive. Thank you Trig for turning me on to him.
December 12, 2020 @ 3:02 pm
A great singer and a great person. More sad news in an awful year full of sad news. A big loss. RIP
December 12, 2020 @ 3:20 pm
This morning I watched an interview of Charley Pride by Dan Rather, which of course led me to YouTube several of his songs and performances (Charley’s, not Dan’s). What a talented and humble man. He accomplished a lot in his 86 years. Respect and condolences.
December 12, 2020 @ 3:26 pm
Saw him a few years ago live and he worked his ass off to give us a great show. Kawl Liga gave everyone goosebumps.
December 12, 2020 @ 3:31 pm
He definitely accomplished a lot in his extremely long career; and to pass away, even at the age of 86, of so insidious a virus as COVID-19 is a reminder that if it can happen to him, there’s always a chance it can happen to any one of us.
Wear A Mask
December 12, 2020 @ 3:52 pm
A terrible preventable tragedy. Also screw Maren Morris and her outrage. She was at the CMAs without a mask on taking selfies with Lauren Alaina, Reba and Miranda Lambert. Not a mask between them but now she’s outraged that the CMAs was an indoor invent. I’m sick of her fake woke ass.
December 12, 2020 @ 4:03 pm
Kyle is an anti-white bigot folks. His racist website is going to fail.
December 12, 2020 @ 4:09 pm
People have been predicting my failure for 13 years. Yet here I still am.
Also, if you’re going to troll these comments sections, don’t use multiple aliases to make it look like there’s more of you than one.
December 13, 2020 @ 9:37 am
To Bang Dong, as a long time country music fan, I like coming to this site, as it pays
respect to us old timers, and introduces us to new entertainers.
As for the name calling its counterproductive. Keep up the good work Trigger.
December 12, 2020 @ 4:24 pm
Charley was great. I loved his voice and what is really missed is how great the music was. Lots of steel, honky tonk piano and that lonesome sound. He was so true to the traditional country sound.
December 12, 2020 @ 4:47 pm
Truly a loss to the world, and music hx.
Does anyone die of anything but COVID anymore?
RIP Alex Kintner. another senseless COVID death
December 12, 2020 @ 4:48 pm
RIP Mr. Charley Pride….
December 12, 2020 @ 5:40 pm
Why does it seem like a man who had 50+ radio hits, back when radio hits meant something, has been largely forgotten by the public in comparison to other legends of his era? (Nelson, Haggard, Lynn, Jones, Jennings, Parton, Cash) That is, until society’s recent focus on skin tone.
December 12, 2020 @ 6:04 pm
the public don’t remember country music as much as you think.
So what’s the point?
I can say Willie and Dolly are still famous in the public though.
December 12, 2020 @ 6:32 pm
The country music public. Those that still appreciate the classics.
King Honky Of Crackershire (Mask-free and grieving Charley)
December 12, 2020 @ 6:06 pm
Charley Pride falls firmly into the category of hardcore, traditional Country music, in its most authentic form. It’s C(c)ountry music for C(c)ountry music lovers. Modern, urban-dwelling people, who weren’t raised on C(c)ountry, aren’t as drawn to plain old C(c)ountry music, as they are to what is considered the edgier sounds of Waylon, Willie, and Cash. Waylon, Willie, and Cash are C(c)ountry music for city people, and city people control the music industry, and its media.
You’re right, those city people disgracefully used Charley Pride for their pernicious agenda, even though they never listened to his music. But I can assure you, among those who’ve dined on cornbread since birth, Charley Pride has always been a hero second to none.
December 12, 2020 @ 6:45 pm
I understand your point, but I was raised on cornbread in milk from birth, and he hasn’t made the impression in my life that those others have. Also, it certainly bothers me that you call Cash, Nelson and Jennings country music for city folk, though they have a “wider” appeal.
Alan Jackson is hardcore, traditional country music, and he’s had a huge presence in my life, though the generational difference is obvious.
I think Trigger’s answer below is more likely, but I appreciate your input.
December 12, 2020 @ 6:17 pm
I wonder the same thing about Earl Thomas Conley and Alabama. There was a time, in my youth, where I thought of Alabama sort of like Garth Brooks. I thought they would forever sell out arenas and be virtually bulletproof in terms of popularity. To me, Alabama had the sort of appeal that crossed genres and, in the 80’s/90’s had the older folks and mom’s/dad’s listening to their music, even if they weren’t country music fans, in general. I came to listen to country music through Alabama and the Oak Ridge Boys. My neighbors, who watched us when my parents were working, were a WWII generation couple, who listened to big band music around the house, Glen Miller, etc. But they also listened to Alabama and the Oak Ridge Boys. The parents of everyone I knew listened to Alabama. And this was in the north. I thought everyone listened to Alabama. “Tennessee River,” “Dixieland Delight,” “Song of the South,” and “Mountain Music” were what you would hear in everyone’s house in my neighborhood. My first memory of really hearing country music was being given a toy record player and the Oak Ridge Boys “Elvira” record.
December 12, 2020 @ 6:22 pm
One reason I think Charley Pride faded away like he did is because he virtually retired from touring quite a few years ago. He still would make occasional appearances and such, but unlike Nelson, Haggard, Lynn, etc. who’ve continued to tour hard up to the very end of their lives, Pride sort of coasted into retirement. I think that makes a big difference.
December 12, 2020 @ 6:46 pm
Thank you. I suppose that makes sense.
December 13, 2020 @ 7:00 pm
I disagree, Trigger.
Nelson has remained relevant because he has made sure his name is plastered around the nation. He has been in Taco Bell commercials, that awful Dukes of Hazzard movie, and his pro-Mary Jane stance has made him edgy. Haggard made plenty of comments in the news. Lynn’s music introduced controversial topics which ensured her an active legacy.
Pride wasn’t like them. He didn’t hit up Hollywood, he didn’t go around talking about current events, and his music, like Hank’s, played it vanilla. He didn’t have any appeal to the Rolling Stone media of music except for his skin color in a historically white genre. But Charley also refused to use it as selling point. I can’t tell you how many interviews I read of the man where the hack writer would try to draw out some controversial comment on his race and how it fit in country music.
Charley didn’t make waves. He just made great country music.
December 13, 2020 @ 6:55 pm
Because he was the Stan Musial of country music. He just did his job, did it well, and didn’t make waves for outrageous behavior.
They would be perfect as your neighbors but they didn’t make for good copy. They weren’t in the news for non-musical reasons.
The biggest thing that made Pride stand out in country music was his skin color and he always downplayed it in interviews.
He just performed real country music and didn’t try to appeal to city slickers.
December 13, 2020 @ 7:11 pm
Also, look at your examples:
Nelson: famous for his Mary Jane activism, famous for being an Outlaw, has been in movies, etc
Haggard: Another country singer that was politically active enough to draw attention
Lynn: Sang about controversial topics
Jones: Great vocalist and had a crazy life off the stage that led to millions of tall tales.
Jennings: Did the Dukes of Hazzard, was an Outlaw, outspoken on a number of topics
Parton: Basically has a whole career and empire outside of strictly country music
Cash: Politically active in his comments which appealed to the left-leaning media, did the American Recordings, famous clothing, etc
Pride did none of those things. He didn’t buck the system, he didn’t sing about controversial topics, he didn’t make a series of critically beloved albums with Rubin, he didn’t build his own theme park, he didn’t serve as a narrator for a TV show.
He just sang country music.
Think about Ronnie Milsap. The man has tons of radio hits but you never hear his name dropped in songs.
December 12, 2020 @ 6:58 pm
I’m gutted that he had to die of this cruel disease. RIP Charley you will never be forgotten!
strait county 81
December 12, 2020 @ 7:05 pm
Really horrible to hear, makes me want to turn on some of his music. No shortage of quality stuff to pick from.
December 12, 2020 @ 7:33 pm
RIP Charley. People love to speculate, but there some people who are just acting entirely inconsiderate to his grieving family with what they’re saying.
December 12, 2020 @ 8:40 pm
rip and thank you mr pride
Fourth Blessed Gorge
December 12, 2020 @ 10:22 pm
Such a talented and genuine man. It must have been quite difficult always being known as “the black country guy” but Charley Pride couldn’t have handled that aspect of his career with more dignity and grace. He will be sorely missed.
December 13, 2020 @ 9:34 am
Yes, there is no doubt that media and other folks have often made the discussion on Pride, mostly about race. Unfortunately, that actually clouds the real story of Charley Pride.
Charley was a musically talented, motivated , charismatic man, who made it in the music business on the merits of his sheer talent, determination , and never ending faith and optimism that he would. He is a hero , not only to people of color, but also to any man or woman who’s ever dreamed of success, or ever dared to have a lofty goal. Charley was an uncommon man who came from a common background and was able to accomplish something big. He built a legacy and set a high standard for music, that will be remembered. Thank you Charley Pride for entertaining us and bringing your gifts and unselfishly sharing them with the world. You are greatly missed, sir.
December 13, 2020 @ 9:14 am
Quite a few newspapers in the UK have been saying that Charley Pride was the first black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame however this must be wrong as on the BBC website it says at the end that ‘This article has been updated to reflect that Charley Pride was not the first black musician to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame’. I was just wondering out of curiosity who was the first (I’ve tried googling but couldn’t find it).
December 13, 2020 @ 10:58 am
Charley Pride was the first to become a member of the Hall of Fame (in 2000). Deford Bailey (whose career predates Pride’s by several decades) was inducted in 2005. So the BBC is incorrect.
December 13, 2020 @ 3:49 pm
Thanks for the clarification Steve. Maybe they got it confused with the Grand Ole Opry I don’t know.
December 13, 2020 @ 9:36 am
We lost my dad to COVID the day before Thanksgiving. He raised me on real country music and for that (among many other things) I am so grateful he was my dad. Charley was a big favorite of us both and “Then Who Am I” was an all-time favorite song for us both. I am crushed by Charley’s death. This is just too much!
December 13, 2020 @ 11:23 am
I’ll certainly miss Charley.
He was a great country musician and a humble, elegant man.
December 13, 2020 @ 11:53 am
One of the all time greatest country music vocalists.
Always part of my regular listening rotation.
His music will play all day long in my house today.
December 13, 2020 @ 5:23 pm
RIP for one of the best ever.
I had one of his records as a kid and I wore it out.
December 13, 2020 @ 9:19 pm
Like hearing about Joe Diffie earlier this year, this one hit me like a ton of bricks. And it’s hurts just as much too.
My step-dad was a fan of Charley’s, and through him, I came to really enjoy his music, as well. “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” was actually still a popular recurrent on the radio during my childhood in the early 90’s, and he never failed to sing along whenever it came on. That song, plus “Is Anybody Going to San Antone” were also on one of my parents’ old 8 track tapes that we used to play, as well. We always enjoyed his version of “Kaw-Liga”, as well. Other favorites of mine from earlier in his career are “I’m Just Me,” “I’d Rather Love You,” “Just Between You And Me,” and “All I Have To Offer You (Is Me).”
Besides the straight ahead traditional country he did in the 60’s and early 70’s, I also enjoy a lot of the more contemporary material he did in the late 70’s and 80’s, as well, like “Burgers And Fries,” “Missin’ You,” “Roll On Mississippi,” “Mountain Of Love,” “You’re So Good When You’re Bad,” “I Don’t Think She’s In Love Anymore,” “Never Been So Loved (In All My Life), etc.” In my opinion, he pulled off both styles very well.
December 14, 2020 @ 2:01 am
His more contemporary sounding tunes were big hits – Night Games was terrific too. He did it all very well and it never sounded contrived. Charley was natural and real as the sun rising and setting.
The same could be said for Joe Diffie. The more humorous songs were big hits and went a long way to define his career. But listen to songs like “Ships That Don’t Come In” and “Tougher Than The Nails”. They are exceptional.
I’m hurting right along with you, Jamie. Tough year…
December 14, 2020 @ 3:37 pm
I’m with you all the way on both Pride and Diffie. I consider most of Pride’s output from the late 70’s and 80’s to be examples of contemporary country done right. As for Joe Diffie, I always found his ballad side to be way too often overlooked. He really had the pipes, and songs like “If You Want Me To,” “Is It Cold In Here,” and “Ships That Don’t Come In,” which you mentioned, prove it.
And yeah, this year has been the absolute worst. Too many greats have left us.
December 14, 2020 @ 1:43 am
Good comparison. Stan Musial was referred to as “Stan the Man”. He disliked the nickname because of his humility but he was “The Man” both on the field of play and off. He is an all time great but doesn’t get the shine that others got because he just did what he did and did it exquisitely well.
Stan and Charley performed in fields populated by sketchy characters who performed well on the job but didn’t do so well in the rest of their lives. Charley was a great man who walked the walk.
One of his biggest records was “I’m Just Me”. He was himself and we all were blessed by what he did and who he was.
December 14, 2020 @ 6:41 am
Stan the Man is always forgotten when the laymen created a top 10 hitters list. He didn’t party, marry some famous actress, gamble, cheat, or die tragically. He just came to the ballpark, performed, and stayed married to the same woman for over 70 years.
He did everything we should want in our public figures but we don’t reward good behavior.
December 14, 2020 @ 5:13 am
Great songs Jamie. Mountain of Love is one of my go-to songs when I’m in the mood for Pride. Never Been So loved is also pretty great.( and overlooked imo) Roll on Mississippi, ditto.
I’m thinking about a deep dive into his albums and see if I find more gold nuggets that have been forgotten.
December 14, 2020 @ 10:55 am
A tip of the hat to Dan Rather. He managed to get a recent in-depth valedictory interview with Mr. Pride, as well as with Charlie Daniels, Merle Haggard and Gregg Allman.