Earlier this afternoon, I learned via text message from my Dad, that Charlie Pride had died. My response to my dad was what?? I had just watched Charlie Pride on the CMA awards. It has only been a month and a day ago that Charlie Pride accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Country Music Association. I watched live footage of him recently as he performed with Darius Rucker. I didn’t even know he was sick! Headlines everywhere read that Pride died from complications of Covid-19. How many more artists are we destined to lose because of this virus?
Statement on behalf of CMA and representatives of Charley Pride:
Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions. Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville. He was tested upon landing in Nashville, and again on show day, with all tests coming back negative. After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times. All of us in the Country Music community are heartbroken by Charley’s passing. Out of respect for his family during their grieving period, we will not be commenting on this further.
Country Music is doing what it can to slow the spread. I even saw a television commercial recently where Texas country artists were pleading for us as fans to wear the mask and to practice social distancing. The virus is real and it is definitely out of control.
Charlie Pride was born in Sledge, Mississippi in 1934. Pride taught himself to play the guitar at the age of 14. His first guitar was a Silvertone, purchased from a Sears and Roebuck catalog. He learned songs that he heard playing on the radio. He was exposed to Blues, Country, and Gospel music.
It was Charley’s father who first inspired his love for country music. His father would tune the family radio to Nashville’s WSM-AM station in order for them to listen to the Grand Old Opry. Years later, Pride would become the first black country artist to sing at the Grand Old Opry. In 1993, Charlie Pride would officially be invited to become a member of the Opry.
Producer, Chet Akins, signed Pride to RCA Records in 1966. By the early 1970’s Pride became RCA’s, best-selling artist since Elvis.
Some RCA executives tried to hide Pride’s race. There were concerns that Charley Pride’s African heritage would cause country music fans to react adversely.
About this Pride later 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.”Charley Pride
Charley Pride’s music did speak for itself. Pride showed talent in the way that he put so much emotion into his songs. His music is memorable and has made an impact on country music. Pride has bridged the gaps in country music. He has eased racial tensions and has led many members of the black community to country music.
Besides Ray Charles and Darius Rucker, Pride has been the only African American artist to conquer the country music charts.
Besides being a standing member of the Grand Old Opry, and Earning a Lifetime Achievement Award this year, Charlie Pride has had numerous accolades for his music. From 1967-1987 Charlie Pride released 29 #1 hits. He was the CMA Top Male Vocalist and Entertainer of The Year in 1972. In 2000 Charley Pride was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame.
Charley, It has been my pleasure to be one of your fans. Thanks for making the music what it was. Thanks for becoming an inspiration to many. Your legend nor your music can ever die.