Covid-19: Black country music superstar Charley Pride dies at 86 – News

Charley Pride, one of the first black country music superstars whose rich baritone on hits like Kiss an angel good morning helped sell millions of records and made him the first black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, he has died. He was 86 years old.

Pride died Saturday in Dallas from complications from Covid-19, according to Jeremy Westby of public relations firm 2911 Media.

“I am so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, passed away. It’s even worse to know that you passed away from Covid-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you, ”Dolly Parton tweeted.

Pride released dozens of albums and sold more than 25 million records during a career that began in the mid-1960s. Kiss an angel good morning in 1971 included Is Anybody Goin ‘to San Antone, Burgers and Fries, Mountain of Loveand Someone loves you baby

He earned three Grammy Awards, over 30 No. 1 hits between 1969 and 1984, won the Country Music Association’s Best Male Vocalist and Artist of the Year award in 1972, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. Won the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award last month from the Country Music Association.

“He broke down barriers and did things that no one had ever done,” Darius Rucker said on Twitter. “Heaven just welcomed one of the best people I know.” Tanya Tucker tweeted: “I’m so grateful to be able to sing a song with him.” Billy Ray Cyrus called him “gentleman”, “legend” and “true pioneer”.

The Smithsonian in Washington acquired Pride memorabilia, including a pair of boots and one of his guitars, for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Ronnie Milsap called him a “trailblazer” and said that without his support, Milsap could never go to Nashville. “Hearing this news rips a piece of my heart out,” he said in a statement.

Other black country stars came before Pride, namely DeFord Bailey, who was a member of the Grand Ole Opry between 1927 and 1941. But until the early 1990s, when Cleve Francis appeared, Pride was the only black country singer. signed with an important stamp. In 1993, he joined the cast of Opry in Nashville.

“They used to ask me what it feels like to be the ‘first country singer of color,'” he said. The Dallas Morning News in 1992. “Then he was the ‘first black country singer’; then ‘first black country singer’. Now I am the ‘first African American country singer’. That is the only thing that has changed. This country is so race conscious, so devoured by colors and pigments. I call it ‘skin problems’, it’s a disease. “

Pride grew up in Sledge, Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper. He had seven brothers and three sisters.

In 2008, while accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the Mississippi Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts, Pride said it never focused on race.

“My older sister once said, ‘Why are you singing HIS music?’” Pride said. “But we all understand what the syndrome has been for you and us. Look, I never accepted that as an individual, and I really think that’s why I am where I am today. “

As a young man, before launching his singing career, he pitched and outfielded in the American Black League with the Memphis Red Sox and in the Pioneer League in Montana.

After playing minor league baseball for a couple of years, he ended up in Helena, Montana, where he worked at a zinc smelter plant by day and played country music in nightclubs by night.

Pride was part of the Texas Rangers ownership group for the past 10 years and the team will fly the flags at half-mast at Globe Life Field and Globe Life Park on Sunday and Monday in his memory.

“The Texas Rangers join the country music world in mourning the loss of Charley Pride. While Mr. Pride was a legendary artist who entertained millions of fans in the United States and around the world, we will remember him as a true friend to this franchise, “the team said in a statement.

After an audition with the New York Mets, Pride visited Nashville and got into country music when Chet Atkins, head of RCA Records, listened to two of his demo tapes and signed him up.

To ensure that Pride was judged on his music and not his race, his first singles were sent to radio stations without a publicity photo. After his identity became known, some country radio stations refused to play his music.

However, for the most part, Pride said it was well received. Early in his career, he reassured white audiences when he joked about his “permanent tan.”

“Music is the best communicator on planet Earth,” he said in 1992. “Once people heard the sincerity in my voice and heard me project and saw my delivery, it just dispelled any apprehensions or bad feelings they might have had.”

Throughout his career, he sang positive rather than sad songs often associated with country music.

“Music is a beautiful way of expressing yourself and I really think music shouldn’t be taken as a protest,” he said in 1985. “You can go too far in anything (singing, acting, whatever) and politicize yourself to the point of stop being an entertainer. “

In 1994, he wrote his autobiography, Pride: The Charley Pride Story, in which he revealed that he was mildly manic depressive. He underwent surgery in 1997 to remove a tumor from his right vocal cord.

“Charley Pride was a pioneer whose remarkable voice and generous spirit broke barriers in country music, just as his hero Jackie Robinson did in baseball,” tweeted director and producer Ken Burns.

He received the Living Legend Award from The Nashville Network / Music City News, in recognition of 30 years of achievement, in 1997.

“I would like to be remembered as a good person who tried to be a good entertainer and made people happy, who was a good American who paid his taxes and made a living,” he said in 1985. “I tried to do my best and contribute my part “.

He is survived by his wife, Rozene, whom he married in 1956; three children, Kraig, Dion and Angela; and several grandchildren.