Country music legend Charlie Pride died Saturday at the age of 86 from complications caused by COVID-19. Pride, who gave his last performance last month at the CMA Awards in Nashville, was the first black performer inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for CMA
Charlie Pride, who sold millions of records and became the first black performer to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, among many other honorees, has died at age 86. A statement posted on the singer's website said Pride died in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday from complications of COVID-19.
The son of a Mississippi sharecropper, Pride was one of the first black men to become a major star in a genre where most of the big hits are white. In the 1960s and 1970s, Pride recorded dozens of songs that topped the country music charts, including "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin' and 'Is Anybody Goin' in San Antone.
Pride had at least 30 hits on the country music charts, and won almost every major award available to a country musician. In total, Grade won three Grammy awards, including Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1972, as well as several Country Music Association awards, which named him Artist of the Year in 1971. His last performance was at the CMA awards on November 11th, where he performed "Kiss and Good Morning Angel" with Jimmy Allen.
Along with his competition awards, Pride has received nearly every other award given to a man of his stature in the genre, including induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Grand Ole Opry, the country music mecca where Pride first performed from 1967 to 1993.
Pride's accomplishments were not limited to the Nashville scene. Honors have come from Hollywood, including a star on the 1999 Walk of Fame and a lifetime achievement at the 2017 Grammy Awards. He is also said to have inspired the character of Tommy Brown - a fictional black country music performer played by actor Timothy Brown - in Robert Altman's extensive 1975 film Nashville.
Shortly before winning a lifetime Grammy, he told NPR that he often resisted the label of pioneer.
"I've never seen anything but strong American pride in Charlie," he says. "When I got into this, they used different descriptions. They would say, 'Charlie, what's it like to be the Jackie Robinson of country music,' or 'What's it like to be the first country singer of color? Pride said.
"It doesn't bother me, except to explain to you - how I maneuvered around all these obstacles to get where I am today. I have a great-grandson and a daughter, and they're going to be wondering, too, if we don't get off this crutch that we've all been on all these years, trying to get free of everything, you know? "Everyone," "they" and "we.
Pride was born on March 18, 1934 in Sledge, Miss. Pride grew up less than 300 miles from Nashville, but the road to country music stardom was full of fun. He served in the U.S. Army and pursued a baseball career, playing in the segregated American Negro League and the minor leagues, and worked in a foundry in Montana, where he began to raise a family.
Pride began singing while still playing baseball, but did not move to Nashville immediately. He signed with RCA in 1965 and in 1967 released "Just Between You and Me," which became his first country album in the top 10. From there, he never looked back, scoring a total of more than 60 points in the next decade and a half.