Country legend Charley Pride has died at age 86

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Charley Pride photo
Charley Pride (courtesy the artist)

Country legend Charley Pride has died at age 86 due to complications from COVID-19.

Charley Pride is an artist who some liken to Jackie Robinson; specificially, what Jackie Robinson did to integrate baseball, Charley Pride did for country music. And it turns out Charley Pride's story involves baseball, too.

In 1934, Pride was born into a family of sharecroppers in Mississippi. Growing up on a farm, Pride discovered and fell in love with music by listening to the radio. Country music was the genre that Pride liked the most, listening to songs of performers like Jimmie Rodgers, who was also from Mississippi, and listening to the broadcasts of the Grand Ole Opry. "I got to listening to Grand Ole Opry and all when I was small, and I got hooked on it," Pride told the Associated Press. "It just went from there. I had no idea that I was preparing myself for this [music career], but I'm glad."

Although Charley Pride loved music and started playing guitar as a teen, it was Pride's dream to have a career as a professional baseball player. His baseball career got started in the early 1950s as a pitcher with the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. Pride went on to play in the New York Yankees organization, and he had tryouts with a few Major League clubs. But a stint in the U.S. Army as well as an injury to his pitching arm eventually dimmed Charley Pride's Major League hopes.

But the baseball dream wasn't all for naught — while playing for one of the Cincinnati Reds' farm teams in Montana, Pride became known for his singing ability. In fact, the manager of the baseball team Charley Pride played for started hiring him to sing before games to help boost attendance. Two area musicians, Red Foley and Red Sovine, encouraged Pride to keep singing, and they invited Pride to share gigs with them.

Eventually, Charley Pride cut a demo that made its way into the hands of Chet Atkins at RCA in Nashville. Pride was signed to the RCA label in 1965, and his career skyrocketed. Working with producer Jack Clement, Pride went on to have a stellar career in country music. "Jack Clement was my producer, and he produced about 95, 96 percent of my songs that I recorded," Pride explained to Time Life. "[Clement] said to me one day, he says, 'Charley, these songs that we're singing now, that we're recording, 50 years from now, they're going to be still listening to and playing them.'"

In the early part of his career, audiences were at times taken by surprise when they learned Charley Pride was a Black man, but Mr. Pride took it all in stride, winning the hearts of music fans across the nation and around the world. "Really, it's the songs," Pride reflected in the interview with Time Life. "I do think that you can find a song to fit any mood you're in, whether you're kind of sad or happy. Sometimes you can find a sad song that'll make you cry, but after you're done crying, you'll feel good afterwards.

"That's why I've always loved country music," Pride continued. "That's the way it's always made me feel, and I think that's the way I make my fans feel when they hear me sing."

Charley Pride has sold millions of records, and he's had many, many hits, including "Kiss an Angel Good Morning, " "Is Anybody Going to San Antone" and "Mountain of Love."

In addition to all his work in music, Charley Pride became an advocate for mental health, after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which he managed with medication.

In the course of his career, Charley Pride earned numerous accolades, like four Grammys — including a Lifetime Achievement Award — and induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry, the radio show he first fell in love with as a kid. Charley Pride even performed for then-President Barack Obama at the White House in 2010. And as Mr. Pride was always happy to share, he'd even been kissed by Willie Nelson.

Despite all the success and the awards, when asked by a CBC talk show in 2012 about what he thought about his legacy, Pride said, "My legacy, I would like for people to say that — first of all, I think they would say this: that he loved what he did. Singing. I do. And I've tried to go onstage and do 110 percent every time I go on.

"And I think I'm a pretty good fellow," Pride concluded. "I think I'm a pretty nice fellow."

Pride is survived by his wife, Rozene Cohran Pride, their three children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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External Link

Charley Pride - official site

4 Photos

  • Charley Pride photo from Getty
    (L-R) Charley Pride and Rozene Cohran Pride attend the 2019 Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on October 20, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
  • Charley Pride photo from Getty
    Charley Pride performs onstage during the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum celebration of the donation of Cowboy Jack Clement's Gibson J-200 guitar to its Permanent Collection at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on November 19, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Jason Kempin/Getty Images)
  • Charley Pride photo from Getty
    Charley Pride at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on June 6, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Jason Davis/Getty Images)
  • Charley Pride photo from Getty
    Singer Charley Pride sings the National Anthem prior to the Texas Rangers playing against the San Francisco Giants in Game Five of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on November 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Elsa/Getty Images)