Charley Pride, Pioneering Country Star, Dead at 86

His music reached the top of the country charts 29 times

3rd. Annual "Mississippi GRAMMY Legacy " Celebration
Country Singer Charley Pride performs at The 3rd. Annual "Mississippi GRAMMY Legacy" Celebration in 2009.
Rick Diamond/WireImage

Charley Pride’s career in music spanned decades, earning him a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Pride is widely considered to be the first Black country music star, and made a name for himself with hits like “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’” and “Someone Loves You Honey.” Rolling Stone reports that Pride has died at the age of 86; the cause was complications from COVID-19.

Pride’s final public performance came at this year’s CMA Awards on November 11, 2020, where he received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. At the event, Pride and Jimmie Allen performed “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’.” The awards ceremony was criticized for the number of attendees visible on camera without masks on at an indoor event.

Prior to his career in music, Pride played baseball — including several years spent in the Negro American League. He moved to Nashville in the mid-1960s and signed to RCA in 1965. His first album, titled Country, reached number 20 on the charts; 1967’s The Pride of Country Music was his first to reach number 1.

All told, 52 of his songs reached the Country Top 10, with 29 reaching the top of the chart. He was the first Black musician to play at the Grand Old Opry in decades. And in 2000, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Over the years, over 25 million copies of Pride’s records have been sold. In a 2019 article for The New Yorker, David Cantwell looked back over Pride’s life and career and referred to him as “one of the finest vocalists in country-music history” — before offering a nuanced analysis of his place in musical history. It’s a significant one, and his death is a tremendous loss.

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