Famous country singer Charley Pride has passed away at the age of 86 following complications from COVID-19. Pride recently received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the Country Music Association Awards last month, with Pride delivering what would end up being his final performance at the awards.
Pride had been born the son of a sharecropper in Mississippi, he went on to become one of country music’s biggest artists, with over 500 songs. In addition to his prowess as an artist, Pride had also played professional baseball, pitching for the Memphis Red Sox.
Red Sovine and Red Foley encouraged Pride to work in country music while he still played baseball, with Pride performing at clubs throughout Montana. Eventually, Pride was signed to RCA, and his single “Just Between you and Me” rose Pride to fame, giving him a Grammy nomination.
Some of Pride’s first performances in larger venues saw audience members cease to applause upon seeing that he was Black. Pride managed to overcome the discrimination, his prowess as a songwriter becoming recognized within the spaces he had initially not been allowed.
In 1971, Pride was awarded with the Entertainer of the Year award at the CMAs, and throughout his career he garnered 52 top 10 hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, with 30 songs reaching number 1. Pride won Male Vocalist of the Year at the CMAs in 1973 and 1974, and he was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1993. In 2000, Pride became the first Black artist to join the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The CMAs this year had been criticized for being held indoors without requirements for attendees to wear masks. Several performers for the awards wound up having to back out following COVID diagnosis ahead of the event. The CMAs have also been criticized for their lack of representation of Black artists.