Charley Pride — a Country Music Hall of Fame singer who rose from rural Mississippi to become the genre's first Black superstar — died Saturday at age 86.
The "Kiss An Angel Good "Mornin" star died in Dallas, Texas, due to complications from COVID-19, according to a news release from his publicist, Jeremy Westby.
With a career spanning more than five decades, Pride cemented a trailblazing legacy unlike any entertainer before him. Launching his career in the 1960s, in the height of civil rights movement, Pride became the first Black man to outright conquer country music fame.
He overcame audiences unwilling to hear a Black man cover Hank Williams and promoters equally skeptical at hosting his performances to once be the best-selling artist for RCA Records since Elvis Presley.
His remarkable career was applauded by a live audience at last month’s CMA Awards, where he received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. He was introduced by one of the genre's modern Black stars, Jimmie Allen.
"I might never have had a career in country music if it wasn't for a truly groundbreaking artist, who took his best shot, and made the best kind of history in our genre,” Allen told him.
Unlike nearly every other awards show held this year, the CMAs were produced with a live, socially distanced audience at Nashville’s Music City Center.
Charley Frank Pride was born to father Mack Pride and mother Tessie B. Stewart Pride on March 18, 1934 in Sledge, Mississippi. One of 11 children, he worked as a kid picking cotton for his father, a local sharecropper, saving $10 to buy his first guitar, with an assist from his mother, out of a Sears Roebuck catalog.