Country legend Charley Pride — cited as an early pioneer for Black musicians in country music — died on Saturday in Dallas, Texas, at the age of 86 due to complications from COVID-19, a statement on his website confirmed.
With top hits including “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” and “Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone,” Pride became the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
He was born in Mississippi in 1934 as the son of a sharecropper. After a brief time serving in the Army and some unsuccessful attempts at becoming a professional baseball player, Pride headed to Nashville in the 1960s.
In addition to earning three Grammy Awards during his career, he took home the entertainer of the year award at the 1971 Country Music Awards and won male vocalist of the year both that year and in 1972. In 1975, he became the first Black man to host the Country Music Association Awards.
His final performance was just last month at the annual ceremony before he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Pride hit the stage to perform his hit "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" and was joined by Jimmie Allen for a touching duet. Artists including Luke Combs and Eric Church sang along in the audience.
"Well, you might not believe but I'm nervous as can be. All the people have been influenced by my life, what my life has been influenced by, I got to say something about some of them," Pride said as he accepted the award, going on to list some of his influences, including the late Jack Clement.
Country star Darius Rucker, who is Black, hosted the CMAs this year and said he was “honored” to be in attendance while Pride accepted his awards
"It's truly surreal," Rucker told fellow singer Rissi Palmer on the Color Me Country radio show prior to the November event. "I remember having a Charley Pride record in my mom's collection that I don't think my mom ever put on, but she bought that record because he was a Black man singing country music."
"Now, decades and decades later, to be a part of him getting an award … There's nobody that deserves it more than Charley. Nobody. To be a part of that, I'm so honored. I'm honored to call him a friend," he added.
Following the news of his death, fellow country stars paid tribute to Pride and his legacy.
“I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away. It’s even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you,” Dolly Parton wrote on Twitter.
“Rest In Peace. My love and thoughts go out to his family and all of his fans,” she added.
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