New York Daily News: MANHATTAN, NY – Charley Pride, the barrier-busting baritone who became the first Black musician inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame, died Saturday in Dallas. He was 86.
He died in hospice care after a stay in the hospital, according to a spokesperson. The cause was complications of COVID-19.
A child of Mississippi sharecroppers who served in the Army and played baseball in the Negro leagues, Pride headed for the music business in 1960s and became the first Black country music star.
Over a half-century career, he sold more than 25 million records, scored a trio of Grammy Awards and recorded dozens of Top 10 hits on the country charts. He is best known for his early ’70s hits “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” and “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone.”
Darius Rucker, another towering Black country star, once commented,
“Charley went through a lot of stuff to do what he loved to do,” including having his face left off his records to obscure his racial identity. “He loved to sing country music.”
“I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away,” Dolly Parton tweeted on Saturday afternoon. “Charley, we will always love you.”
Born in Sledge, Miss., on March 18, 1934, Pride was one of 11 siblings. Growing up, he viewed the baseball diamond as his path out of the Southern cotton fields.
“When Jackie Robinson went to the major leagues, I was picking cotton beside my dad, and I said to myself: ‘Here’s my way out,’” Pride said in the PBS film “Charley Pride: I’m Just Me.”
He was a strong athlete, but once he arrived in the Negro leagues — where he pitched and played outfield — others remarked on another talent of Pride’s: his rich voice. They told him he could make some major cash singing, he remembered. And they were right.
After seeing his baseball dream dim and spending a spell at a smelting plant in Montana, Pride traveled in 1963 to Nashville, the mecca of country music. By 1967, he had cracked the Top 10 in the country chart with his recording of “Just Between You and Me.”
In defiance of deep-seated racial barriers, his star continued to rise, and by the early ’70s he was a bona fide star. In 1971, he released his biggest hit, “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin,’” and won the CMA’s entertainer of the year award.
By the end of the ‘70s, he had received 13 Grammy nominations and had helped to open a lane for Black country musicians.
“We’re not color blind yet,” Pride wrote in his 1994 memoir, “but we’ve advanced a few paces along the path and I like to think I’ve contributed something to that process.”
- Top Feature Photo: Charley Pride is dead at 86 – Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for CMA