Charley Pride Dies at 86 Due to COVID-19 Complications
Photo by Joseph Llanes
According to a press release from 2911 Media, country music icon Charley Pride has died at age 86. He passed away on Saturday, Dec. 12 in Dallas, Texas, due to complications from COVID-19.
Pride, a celebrated vocalist and guitarist, was known for songs like “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” and “Mountain of Love” — just three No. 1 hits of his 52 Top 10 country tracks. He was RCA Records’ best-selling performer since Elvis, the Country Music Association’s (CMA) Entertainer of the Year in 1971, and the recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year. He won three Grammy awards in his career for his performances (two in gospel categories and one in country), and also won their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.
But Pride’s influence reached far beyond chart positions and awards. Often referred to as “Country’s First Black Superstar,” he was the first Black member of the Grand Ole Opry (the second, Darius Rucker, was invited in 2012). He ultimately became a trailblazer for a more inclusive country music scene, despite its continued struggles for equality.
In fact, back in 1998, No Depression quipped in a review of Pride’s album, In Person, “You probably already know who Charley Pride is; after all, the country music industry has broken its arm a few times patting itself on the back for his accomplishments as the only major Black star the style has yet produced.”
Pride’s last performance was an affecting one — a duet with country singer-songwriter Jimmie Allen on November 11, 2020 during the CMA Awards show in Nashville. Although The Tennessean quoted a CMA statement that read, “All in attendance are required to wear a mask any time they leave their assigned seat,” the paper also reported that “During the broadcast, country artists could be seen seated maskless in their respective tables throughout Music City Center.”
Country’s biggest stars took to social media to share photos, memories, and tributes, including Billy Ray Cyrus and Dolly Parton. Musicians across other genres also left comments.
The last time I spoke to my good friend and legend Charley Pride. We met in ‘92 playing shows together in Australia. His beloved sweetheart Rosie by his side. A gentleman… legend and true trail blazer. With much respect #RIP pic.twitter.com/dewMqcC6Rk
— Billy Ray Cyrus (@billyraycyrus) December 12, 2020
I loved Charley Pride. He lived near my house growing up in Dallas and my Dad said he was always a gentleman at the post office when he’d see him in line. “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” is a forever song for me. RIP.
— Andrew Combs (@andrew_combs) December 12, 2020
Damn you ‘Rona you had to take Charley too. RIP you legend- all of us country folk who share your pigmentations will always look up to you. 💔💔💔
— Rhiannon Giddens (@RhiannonGiddens) December 12, 2020
Pride’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Pride Scholarship at Jesuit College Preparatory School, St. Philip’s School and Community Center, The Food Bank, or the charity of your choice.
[Update Dec. 14: 2911 Media has issued the following statement on funeral services and upcoming tributes.]
“Charley Pride’s family and close friends will hold a private wake and memorial in Dallas this week, with future plans for a public celebration of life memorial ceremony to be announced at a later date.”
The company also announced that CMT is organizing a televised tribute to Pride called CMT Remembers Charley Pride. According to the release, “The special will include appearances and footage from some of Pride’s closest friends, colleagues, and admirers, including Darius Rucker, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Tim McGraw, Shania Twain, and more, alongside his beloved family, his wife Rozene, son Dion, sister Maxine and his brother Joe.”
CMT Remembers Charley Pride will air this coming Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. ET, Thursday, Dec. 17 at 9 a.m., and Saturday, Dec. 19 at 12 p.m. ET.