Musicheads Essential Artist: Charley Pride


Charley Pride photo
Charley Pride (courtesy the artist)
Musicheads Essential Artist: Charley Pride
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Charley Pride is a Musicheads Essential Artist. This beloved country star was an African American man whose success in a genre that often marginalized Black artists made him an inspiration for those who believe that country music is for all Americans.

Charley Pride was born in 1934 to a sharecropping family in Sledge, Mississippi. Although he started playing music in his teens, his first career was in baseball. He pitched for several professional teams, sometimes entertaining fans with pre-game concerts.

In the mid-1960s, his music caught the ear of country tastemaker Chet Atkins. Pride's first big success came in 1967, when the single "Just Between You and Me" made the country top ten and earned a Grammy nomination.

That same year, Pride became just the second Black artist ever to appear on the Grand Ole Opry. Many of his early fans were surprised to show up for his concerts and learn he was Black, and Pride addressed the issue directly. "I realize it's a little unique," he said, "but that's the way it is."

For the next two decades, Charley Pride was one of country music's biggest stars. His smooth songs were a perfect fit for the "countrypolitan" sound of the time, and Pride's string of country chart-toppers would ultimately make him second only to Elvis Presley in all-time sales for his label, RCA Victor. His signature song was 1971's "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'," which crossed over to Top 40 success on the pop charts.

Charley Pride died of COVID-19 in 2020 at age 86, a month after receiving the Country Music Association's Lifetime Achievement Award. Sharing the sad news, his estate said that Charley Pride influenced every artist "who builds bridges with melody and sincerity."

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