Charley Pride, the son of sharecroppers who rose to become country music’s first Black superstar is dead at the age of 86.
The singer who rose to fame in the 1960s, died on Saturday December 12 from COVID-19 complications. While Pride is not the first black singer in country music, he became one of its biggest stars during a period of division in the US.
In 1971, just four years after his first hit records, he won the Country Music Association’s entertainer of the year award, the genre’s highest honor. He won three Grammy Awards, followed by a lifetime achievement award in 2017.
Born on March 18, 1934, in Sledge, Mississipi to Tessie Stewart Pride and Mack Pride Sr. he served in the Army before moving to Montana to try to make it as a baseball player. He worked at a smelting plant and played semiprofessional baseball in East Helena, where he was paid $10 to sing the national anthem before games, he told Montana Sports this year.
He began his recording career in 1963; two years later, he signed a contract with RCA Records, shuffling between Montana and Nashville before eventually relocating live full time in the hub of country music.
In 1967, his recording of “Just Between You and Me” became a Top 10 hit on Billboard’s country music charts. Only then did he quit his smelting job. Fifty-two of his songs reached the country Top 10, including the hits All I Have to Offer You (Is Me) and Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’.