Country singer Charley Pride, the first black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, died today in Dallas of complications from COVID-19. He was 86 years old.
Pride made his last appearance – a duet of his song “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin ‘” with aspiring black country singer Jimmie Allen – at the Country Music Association Awards in November, where he received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. The show has been criticized for taking place indoors – without masks – amid the raging coronavirus pandemic. Pride had been named Entertainer of the Year by the CMAs in 1971 and was named Best Male Singer in 1971 and 1972.
Pride was born March 18, 1934 in Sledge, Mississippi, the son of a stockbroker. He served in the Army and worked at a smelter in Missouri. He later pursued a baseball career with the Memphis Red Sox and the Birmingham Black Barons of the major leagues. In 1963 he moved to Nashville to edit his first demos. He would sign with RCA in 1965 and release his first album Country in 1966. It would be the first of eight albums to be awarded gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Pride released 41 studio country albums, two gospel albums, and one Christmas album. He scored 29 number 1 singles on the country charts, including “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin”, “Is Anybody Goin ‘to San Antone” and “Mountain of Love”.
Between 1967 and 1987, Pride was RCA Records’ top-selling country artist. He made his Grand Ole Opry debut in 1967 and eventually joined as a member in 1993. Between 1966 and 1979 he was nominated for thirteen Grammy awards and won three times.
Commenting on his contributions to diversifying country music, Pride wrote in his memoir, “We are not colorblind yet, but we are a few steps along the way and I like to think that I have contributed to the process.”