Pride passed away from complications of COVID-19
Charley Pride, whose rich baritone voice and impeccable song-sense altered American culture, died Saturday, December 12th in Dallas, Texas of complications from COVID-19 at age 86.
“He was admitted to the hospital in late November with COVID-19 type symptoms and despite the incredible efforts, skill and care of his medical team over the past several weeks, he was unable to overcome the virus,” Pride family shares in a statement.
“Charley felt blessed to have such wonderful fans all over the world. And he would want his fans to take this virus very seriously.”
Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.
Born a sharecropper’s son in Sledge, Mississippi, on March 18, 1934, Pride emerged from Southern cotton fields to become country music’s first black superstar and the first black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“No person of color had ever done what he has done,” shares Darius Rucker in the PBS American Masters film Charley Pride: I’m Just Me.
Pride was a gifted athlete who at first thought baseball would be his path from poverty, labor, and strife. But his musical acumen was more impressive than his pitching arm or his hitting skills, and he emerged as one of the most significant artists at RCA Records, with chart-topping hits including “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” and “Mountain of Love.” He won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award in 1971, its top male vocalist prize in 1971 and 1972, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.
His final performance came on November 11, 2020, when he sang “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’” during the CMA Awards show at Nashville’s Music City Center with Jimmie Allen, a modern-day hitmaker who counts Pride among his heroes.
Charley Frank Pride was not the first black artist to make important contributions to country music — DeFord Bailey was a star of the Grand Ole Opry from 1927 through 1941 — but Pride was a trailblazer who emerged during a time of division and rancor.
After a stint in the Army, time working at a Missouri smelting plant, and some unsuccessful attempts to break into big-league baseball, he came to Nashville in 1963 and made demonstration recordings with help from manager Jack Johnson.
Those recordings languished for two years until Johnson met with producer Jack Clement, who offered songs for Pride to learn. On August 16, 1965, Clement produced Pride at RCA Studio B, and the results of that session impressed RCA’s Chet Atkins, who signed Pride to a recording contract.
In 1967, Pride’s recording of Clement’s “Just Between You and Me” broke into country’s Top 10, and Pride quit his job as a smelter. Iron ore was behind him, and platinum records lay ahead.
Between 1967 and 1987, Pride delivered 52 Top 10 country hits, won Grammy awards, and became RCA Records’ top-selling country artist. His musicality opened minds and superseded prejudice.
“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.
Today, black artists including Allen, Rucker, Mickey Guyton, Rissi Palmer, Rhiannon Giddens, Yola, and others add new chapters to country music’s story. Charley Pride’s impact is evident and important to all of them, and also to every other country performer who builds bridges with melody and sincerity.
Charley Pride escaped the cotton fields, where labor hurt his hands, back, and knees. He transcended and ascended through connection. Through fortitude and artistry, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and a beloved American icon.
Charley Pride was the son of Tessie Stewart Pride and Mack Pride, Sr. He was the husband of Ebby Rozene Cohran Pride. His children are Carlton Kraig Pride, Charles Dion Pride, and Angela Rozene Pride. His grandchildren are Carlton Kraig Pride, Jr., Malachi Pride, Syler Pride, Ebby Pride, and Arrentino Vassar. His two great-grandchildren are Skyler Pride and Carlton Kraig Pride, III. he is preceded in death by brothers Jonas McIntyre, Mack Pride, Jr., Louis Pride, Edward Pride, and Joe L. Pride, and by sister Bessie Chambers. He leaves behind siblings Harmon Pride, Stephen Pride, Catherine Sanders, and Maxine Pride, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to The Pride Scholarship at Jesuit College Preparatory School, St. Philips School and Community Center, The Food Bank, or the charity of your choice.
Oh no … we have lost another long time friend, pioneer, hero and LEGEND … this will be another loss that will be hard to process … Rest Easy Charley …. We will miss you terribly … #kissanangelgoodmorning #RIPCharlyPride pic.twitter.com/UKAFDi5qFO
— The Oak Ridge Boys (@oakridgeboys) December 12, 2020
We need answers as to how Charley Pride got covid.
— Mickey Guyton (@MickeyGuyton) December 12, 2020
My heart is so heavy. Charley Pride was an icon a legend and any other word u wanna use for his greatness. He destroyed Barriers and did things that no one had ever done. But today I’m thinking of my friend. Heaven just got one of the finest people I know. I miss and love u CP!
— Darius Rucker (@dariusrucker) December 13, 2020
— Joe Bonsall (@joebonsall) December 12, 2020
I’m so sad to learn that Charley Pride has passed away at the age of 86. Charley opened doors for so many artists and I was proud to record with him and to know him as my friend. He will be sorely missed, but his music will live on forever. Deepest condolences to his family. pic.twitter.com/rgXppJW2pN
— Travis Tritt (@Travistritt) December 12, 2020
Rest In Peace. My love and thoughts go out to his family and all of his fans. – Dolly (2/2)
— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) December 12, 2020
— Chris Janson (@janson_chris) December 12, 2020
Charley Pride will always be a legend in Country music. He will truly be missed but will always be remembered for his great music, wonderful personality and his big heart. My thoughts are with his wife Rozene and their family. RIP, Charley. pic.twitter.com/2IYFfx4kLo
— Reba McEntire (@reba) December 12, 2020
I’m so sorry to hear of the passing of the great Charley Pride. I’ve known him for many years and have been a fan of his since I was a kid. He was always very kind and supportive of me. He was such a pioneer in country music and left his mark on all of us. Rest In Peace, Charley. pic.twitter.com/1jFY1Ik3jy
— Tracy Lawrence (@tracy_lawrence) December 12, 2020
I’m very VERY sorry to hear the terrible news about Charley Pride.. Kiss An Angel Good Morning is one of my first memories of country music.
— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) December 12, 2020
So saddened to hear about the passing of Charley Pride. Prayers for his wife Rozene and his family.
— Martina McBride (@martinamcbride) December 12, 2020
Charley Pride, a pioneer, a music man, a baseball player, a good friend and the love of Rozene’s life, has passed on. Without his encouragement when I was playing the Whiskey.A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip in the ‘70s, I might have never made it to Nashville (cont.)
— Ronnie Milsap (@ronniemilsap) December 12, 2020
I had the pleasure of meeting Charley Pride when I was playing the @opry. I was in awe of his presence and his talent. So saddened by the news of his passing. He was a true legend and trailblazer. His impact on our genre and generations of artists will never be forgotten. Rip
— Luke Combs 🎤 (@lukecombs) December 12, 2020
Charley Pride was a hero, and a trailblazer in country music. Everyone who had the pleasure of knowing Charley loved him. He was truly one of the kindest people I've ever met. I am saddened beyond belief. My heart is with Rozene and the family tonight.
— Trisha Yearwood (@trishayearwood) December 12, 2020
He wore the name PRIDE really well. He leaves a legacy of being a trailblazer and inspiration. I’m honored to have met him and seen his last performance. Rest In Peace, Mr. Charley Pride. pic.twitter.com/daxHuOJCjF
— Lauren Alaina (@Lauren_Alaina) December 13, 2020