Trailblazing country star Charley Pride dies from Covid

African-American country singer Charley Pride whose No 1 country hits included All I Have to Offer You (Is Me) and Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’ has died at the age of 86 due to complications from Covid-19, according to his website.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - NOVEMBER 11: (FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Charley Pride performs onstage during the The 54th Annual CMA Awards at Nashville’s Music City Center on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Charlie Pride performs at an awards ceremony in Nashville last month.
Photo: AFP

Pride, who died in Dallas, was not the first Black artist to make important contributions to country music, but he was a trailblazer who emerged during a time of division and rancour.

Between 1967 and 1987, Pride delivered 52 Top 10 country hits, won three Grammy awards and became RCA Records’ top-selling country artist, according to the website.

He released dozens of albums and sold more than 25 million records during his career.

“We’re not colour 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.

The Mississippi native picked cotton, served in the United States Army and played baseball before moving to Nashville, becoming the first Black country star. He joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000, Rolling Stone magazine said.

“I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away,” country music star Dolly Parton said on Twitter. “It’s even worse to know that he passed away from Covid-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you.”

Country performer Ronnie Milsap called Pride a “pioneer” and said that without his encouragement, Milsap might never gone to Nashville.

“To hear this news tears out a piece of my heart,” he said in a statement.

Australian country star Keith Urban described Pride as “one of the kindest people I’ve ever met”.

Pride’s final performance came on 11 November, 2020, when he sang his hit Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’ during the Country Music Association Award show at Nashville’s Music City Centre.

Pride was born in Sledge, Mississippi, on 18 March, 1934 to a sharecropper.

After enlisting in the Army, he worked at a Missouri smelting plant. Pride then played for the Memphis Red Sox and Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro League before heading in 1963 to Nashville where he made demonstration recordings.

Charley Pride

Charley Pride
Photo: Ben De Rienzo

Four years later, Pride’s recording of Just Between You and Me broke into country’s Top Ten. He went on to win 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.

“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,” country music star Reba McEntire said on Twitter.

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 02: (L-R) Charlie Daniels, Charley Pride, Dwight Yoakam, Carrie Underwood, Randy Travis, Brad Paisley, Reba McEntire,  perform onstage at the 50th annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on November 2, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.

From left: Charlie Daniels, Charley Pride, Dwight Yoakam, Carrie Underwood, Randy Travis, Brad Paisley and Reba McEntire perform onstage in Nashville in November 2016.
Photo: 2016 Getty Images

He is survived by his wife, Rozene, whom he married in 1956; three children, Kraig, Dion and Angela; and several grandchildren.

– Reuters

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