Charley Pride, one of the first Black performers to break through in the country music scene, has died at the age of 86.
According to his representatives, Pride died of complications from COVID-19 on Saturday, just weeks after his final performance at the CMA Awards show back in November.
Known for hits like “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone” and “Mountain of Love,” Pride went on to become the genre’s first Black superstar and the first Black inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
Pride was born in Sledge, Mississippi, on March 18, 1934, and spent his early adulthood serving a brief stint in the Army, working at a smelting plant in Missouri and attempting to break into professional baseball. His first demos were recorded in Nashville in 1963, and he was signed to a recording contract with RCA in 1965.
His 1967 release, “Just Between You and Me,” was Pride’s first to reach the upper sections of Billboard’s country charts, marking the first of 52 songs by the singer to hit the Top 10. Over his 50-year career, Pride had 29 songs hit number one, including “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me),” “(I’m So) Afraid of Losing You Again,” “I Can’t Believe That You’ve Stopped Loving Me,” “I’d Rather Love You,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” “Wonder Could I Live There Anymore,” “I’m Just Me” and “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’.”
Pride became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1993, only the second Black performer to do so after DeFord Bailey in the 1920s. He also went on to collect the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music in 1994, three American Music Awards (including two for Favorite Country Male Artist) and four Grammy Awards.
Last month, Pride was honored with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 CMA Awards and performed a duet of “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'” alongside another Black country performer, Jimmie Allen.
The singer reflected on his pioneering career in his 1994 memoir, “Pride,” writing, “We’re not color blind yet, but we’ve advanced a few paces along the path and I like to think I’ve contributed something to that process.”
Pride is survived by his wife of 64 years, Rozene, two sons, Kraig and Dion, and a daughter, Angela, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.