Charley Pride, Trailblazing Country Music Singer, Dies at 86

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Charley Pride, country music’s first African-American superstar, has died.

Pride, who scored 29 No. 1s on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, passed away Saturday (Dec. 12) in Dallas of complications from COVID-19, according to a press release. He was 86.

Born in 1934 in Sledge, Mississippi, Pride was country music’s first Black superstar, scoring such classics as “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone” (1970), “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” (1971) and “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)” (1969).

“No person of color had ever done what he has done,” Darius Rucker said in the PBS American Masters film Charley Pride: I’m Just Me.

In November, Pride received the 2020 Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 54th annual CMA Awards. He was named CMA entertainer of the year in 1971 and was the first Black man to co-host the CMA Awards in 1975, with Glen Campbell. The three-time Grammy winner was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1993 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

“To say Country Music has lost a trailblazer is an obvious understatement, but in fact one of the biggest losses is Charley’s definitive Country voice,” says Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern. “I remember working with Charley in 2009 on ‘Country Music: In Performance at the White House’ when President and Michelle Obama invited several Country artists to perform. He was a trailblazer in so many ways. It was a special night and Charley was telling amazing stories. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife Rozene and the rest of his family and friends at this sad time.”

Pride appeared as a guest on two albums released earlier this year: In a historic move featuring three generations of Black male country artists, he and Rucker joined Jimmie Allen on “Why Things Happen,” a poignant track on Allen’s EP, Bettie James. Pride also dueted with Garth Brooks on Brooks’ new album, Fun, on “Where the Cross Don’t Burn,” a tale of a young white boy’s friendship with an older Black man.

In lieu of flowers, Pride’s family asks for donations to The Pride Scholarship at Jesuit College Preparatory School, St. Philips School and Community Center and The Food Bank.

Other country artists who have died from complications of COVID-19 this year include Joe Diffie, who passed away in March, and John Prine, who passed in April.

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