Charley Pride, the first Black performer inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, has died. He was 86.
According to the musician’s website, he passed away in Dallas on Saturday, Dec.12, from complications of COVID-19.
Pride was known to fans for his rich baritone voice. The singer and guitarist broke racial and cultural barriers, and became country music’s first Black superstar. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
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Born a sharecropper’s son in 1934, Pride grew up in Sledge, Mississippi. After leaving the cotton fields behind, he served in the Army, worked at a Missouri smelting plant, and tried to break into big-league baseball.
Pride moved to Nashville in 1963 and recorded demos with help from manager Jack Johnson.
The singer signed with RCA Records, and released a string of hits, including “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin,’” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone” and “Mountain of Love.”
In 1967, Pride’s recording of “Just Between You and Me” broke into country’s Top Ten, giving the performer the confidence to quit his job as a smelter.
Between 1967 and 1987, Pride released 52 Top 10 country hits, won Grammy awards, and became RCA Records’ top-selling country artist, according to his website.
“We’re not color blind yet, but we’ve advanced a few paces along the path and I like to think I’ve contributed something to that process,” Pride wrote in his memoir.
He won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award in 1971, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.
As news of Pride’s death spread Saturday, tributes poured in from across the music industry.
“I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away. It’s even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you,” Dolly Parton wrote on Twitter.
Billy Ray Cyrus added: “The last time I spoke to my good friend and legend Charley Pride. We met in ‘92 playing shows together in Australia. His beloved sweetheart Rosie by his side. A gentleman… legend and true trail blazer. With much respect #RIP.”
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center also remembered Pride on Twitter and captioned a photo of him: “A Pioneer. Rest well.”
The singer is survived by his wife of 64 years, Rozene Pride, three children and several grandchildren.