Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry member, and country music pioneer, Charley Pride passed away Saturday, December 12, 2020, at the age of 86. His final performance came on November 11, 2020, when he sang "Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'" during the CMA Awards show at Nashville's Music City Center with Jimmie Allen, a modern-day hitmaker who counts Pride among his heroes.
Through a mix of courage, determination, and extraordinary talent, Pride made country music history by becoming the genre's first black superstar. The country legend had remarkable longevity in his career, which spanned more than five decades. His distinctive baritone voice allowed him to take almost every song he touched into the Top 10, if not the No. 1 position, typically spending multiple weeks there. Between his chart debut in 1966, and 1989, Pride had 29 No. 1 country hits and over 50 Top 10 tracks, including enduring classics like "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone" (1970), "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'" (1971), and "All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)" (1969).
In 1971, he was named CMA Entertainer of the Year as well as Male Vocalist of the Year in both 1971 and 1972. Pride was also the first black man to co-host the CMA Awards, taking the reins in 1975 alongside Glen Campbell. He became a Grand Ole Opry member in 1993 and in 2000, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He holds three Grammy Awards and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Recording Academy in 2017. Pride was honored most recently at the CMA Awards with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
Fellow artists & friends mourn the loss and share fond memories that have left them forever inspired by Charley Pride:
"My friend Charley Pride passed away today. He was a man I very much admired because he took the road less traveled by becoming not just a country singer but a driving force in county music. More than 50 of his songs have been in the top 10 AND his music has hit #1 30 times. I wanted Charley to be recognized by the Kennedy Center because as a black man his life was large and I thought after being a baseball player, a business owner, and the only black man most of us knew who sang country music, he should have gotten The Kennedy Center Honors. I will simply say he was a wonderful man & a great artist. My condolences to his family and the fact this is also another COVID-related death breaks my heart because it didn't have to be this way. Rest In Peace Charley Pride, RIP. Many thanks to the CMAs for recognizing Charley Pride's achievements this year." - Whoopi Goldberg
'When I heard that Charley Pride had passed I just went numb. It hurts beyond words when someone you love passes. When Charley opened his theatre, he asked the Oak Ridge Boys to help him. I got to know Charley as a friend. We recorded with him on one of his last recordings. On the Country Music Cruise, I sat with Rozene and sang along with every big hit as Charley sang. I ask for prayers for Rozene and the family. We have lost another legend, folks. There is a big hole left in our industry. I have been singing "Kiss An Angel Good Morning" all day." - Duane Allen, The Oak Ridge Boys
"There is a Neal McCoy because there was a Charley Pride. No other way to put it. Charley and Rozene have meant the world to Melinda and me and our kids. We are forever indebted to them for their hospitality, their generosity, and their caring and loving ways. Charley is gone now but never forgotten by our family and many other families around this world for the love he has extended through his music and the overall kindness he showed while on this earth. We will see him again, and we will continue to love Rozene and their entire family for years to come." - Neal McCoy
"We have lost a dear long-time friend, hero, PIONEER, and LEGEND. This year keeps getting worse and worse. This will be another loss that will take a long time to process. Rest Easy Charley Pride...we all love you and will miss you terribly." - Joe Bonsall, The Oak Ridge Boys
"Charley has made it possible for artists like me, Mickey, Darius, Jimmie, Kane... to be in country music. He showed us that a career in country music is possible, that we can be true to ourselves and create the music we love. He has paved a path that we're able to walk down. He is a true legend and will never be forgotten." - Reyna Roberts
"Damn Covid. How dare it take Charley Pride away from us. If there was ever any justice in the world, it will come when everyone cares to wear a mask and get the vaccine, so we don't lose anyone else to Covid. Charley Pride was always such a nice man. What a loss for all of the music industry and the world. Never in my lifetime have I met anyone more wonderful. My heartfelt prayers for his family." - Sam Moore
"Charley Pride was the Jackie Robinson of country music and his name was perfect. He was proud, brave and a hell of a singer. I worked with him once and he sang the heck out of the old Hank Williams song Kaw-liga. His voice was large and pure. He belongs in centerfield where the monuments are. He was a great one." - Don McLean
"What an incredible talent Mr. Charley Pride was. Very sad to hear of his passing, God bless, Mr. Pride." - Andrew Farriss
"We have been friends for a long time. Charley and Rozene would come to our home for parties and get-togethers over the years. He was so down to earth and just a normal guy. He will be so missed." - B.J. Thomas
"Charley Pride has been a cornerstone of country music and a wonderful part of my life for so long. I loved his music before I came to Nashville and I loved Charley as soon as I met him. I always looked forward to working with Charley and I will always miss his warm smile, kind words, and beautiful heart." - Crystal Gayle
"Charley Pride was a dear friend and truly one of the sweetest men in the music business. I was privileged to be his opening act when I first came to town. He treated everyone with respect and kindness. I'm in shock and so sad because I lost a good friend, the music business lost an incredible artist and the world lost an amazing citizen." - Lee Greenwood
"Just when I think 2020 couldn't get any worse, it does. One of my dearest friends and one of country music's biggest stars Charley Pride may have left for home today, but my 50 years of wonderful memories with him will never be gone. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Rozene, and their family at this very sad time. R.I.P. my friend." - T.G. Sheppard
"First time I met Charley Pride was in 1983 at the old RCA Records "Studio A". He walked up to me and told me I was a Scorpio. He could do things like that. We became and remained friends since that day. He and Rozene were dear friends of ours. The music business has lost one of the all-time greats! Prayers and condolences to his family and everyone that loved him. RIP, my brother." - T. Graham Brown
"I am speechless and broken-hearted and don't really know what to say. Country music has lost an icon, but I have lost a dear friend. Heaven must be putting together a band. My heart is with the family." - Johnny Lee
"I'm so saddened to hear about Charley Pride. He gave me my start in country music concerts as I opened shows for him in Washington state, Canada, and many cities. His band backed me up, we flew on his private plane and it was a thrill of a lifetime, a dream come true. May peace and strength be with his family." - Janie Fricke
"I was ten years old in 1972 standing on stage in Marceline, Missouri at the Frontier Jamboree when Charley Pride came on stage to sing his new number one song, "Kiss An Angel Good Morning". I got my photo with Charley. I was awestruck watching a Grand Ole Opry star in person. The last time I saw Charley was when we filmed "Country's Family Reunion". He was always so friendly. We will miss his amazing voice and the trailblazer he was. Sending my thoughts and prayers to the family of Charley Pride." - Rhonda Vincent
"I'm heartbroken to hear about Charley's passing. I'm so grateful to have had such a precious conversation with him recently. I loved how he always knew what zodiac sign everyone was the second he met them. What a terrible void he has left in not only our hearts but in the music world. What a courageous trailblazer he was. My prayers go out to his family. Rest In Peace." Kelly Lang
"He was named Pride for a reason. Charley brought honor to country music--breaking through barriers that I can only imagine. His rise to fame is historic. I was honored to play for Charley on the Grand Ole Opry, and I even recorded with him once. It was a thrill for me every time. He was a Christian man who was also fascinated by astrology. After talking with you for a few minutes, he would announce that he could tell what sign you were born under. He pegged me for a Taurus after two minutes of conversation, and darn if he wasn't right. I am lifting Rozene and the entire Pride family up in prayer today. Charley Pride made us all proud, and he will be greatly missed." - Tim Atwood
"Charley was just a real, solid, kind human being. He'll be a great voice in that heavenly choir." - Lacy J. Dalton
"I am so saddened to hear of the passing of my friend, Charley Pride. Charley please "Say Hello To Heaven" for me." - David Frizzell
"On behalf of my husband, Dave Rowland of award-winning group Dave & Sugar our heartfelt condolences go out to the Pride family. If not for Charley we would not have gotten a deal at RCA or even been discovered. Charley had a knack for discovering amazing talent and always gave his all to help bring those talents to not just the industry but also the fans." - Terri Rowland
"My heart is so heavy to know that our Dear Charley Pride has left us, even though we know it's for a better place. Charley was the ultimate gentleman and legend in Country Music! He broke all boundaries in every way! He was always so open and friendly. I specifically remember, of all the people at the BMI Awards, Charley Pride was who my Daddy most wanted to meet! When I took him over to Charley, you would have thought they were long lost friends! That's just the way Charley made everyone feel. He had a "Mountain Of Love" for everybody and was a huge gift to all who knew him." - Deborah Allen
"I am so sad to hear of the passing of country music legend, Charley Pride. He is one of the best artists of all time and there will never be another one like him. Not only was he a legendary artist, but one of the kindest people I ever met. Any time we were ever at the same place regardless of how busy he would be, Charley always took the time to say hello, visit a bit and share a funny story. He's truly the last of a dying breed in my book. Rest easy, sweet Charley." - Shane Owens
"I am sad to hear about the passing of Charley Pride. I met him at the premiere of his documentary, "I Am Me." I will never forget how kind he was to my wife. This one hurts. Prayers to the family." - JD Shelburne
"Trailblazer is an understatement when you say a name like Charley Pride. Charley Pride is an American hero! Because of his courage and talent, the door to country music is now open for all! We hope to make him proud and continue to carry the torch! Rest In Peace, Uncle Charley!" - Danica Hart, Chapel Hart
"I didn't want to believe the news when I heard Mr. Charley had passed away. I remember watching him perform on the CMA Awards show just last month and still being in awe of his smooth voice that has been a staple in country music for so many years. This world will be a little less bright with him gone. My prayers go out to him and his family during these times." - Paige King Johnson
"Today I celebrate one of my heroes in Country Music. I remember first meeting Charley Pride at Gilley's in Houston. He touched me then and inspired me over the years. Rest In Peace, my brother. The world was made better because of you." - Carl Ray
Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.
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