Country Music Great Charley Pride Remembered

By Jirah Mickle
Staff Writer

Talented designer, author and entertainer IMAJ was among the many who shared their thoughts upon hearing of the passing of Country and Western music icon Charley Pride on December 12th.  

For the young singer, Pride was someone who had an impact on her career and gave her support and encouragement as she ventured into a field where Blacks were scarcely represented.

Born Charley Frank Pride, March 18, 1934, in Sledge, MS, he went on to lead a distinguished career in a number of arenas, as an entertainer, entrepreneur and professional baseball player. He was home in Dallas, TX at the time of his death.

Interestingly Pride entered into two arenas that were predominantly all-White: Country and Western Music and major league baseball. 

One of 11 children born to sharecroppers, Pride was one of the eight boys who also took to the fields picking cotton, long before he used those same fingers to pick a guitar.

Pride has been married to Rozene Cohran Pride since 1956. On December 28, 2020, the two would have celebrated their 64th anniversary.

This loss, yet another one to COVID-19, hit IMAJ hard. 

She, like Pride, has graced many a stage singing country and western hits and usually before largely all-White audiences.

Pride, the first Black inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, spent time with IMAJ, encouraging her as she pursued the music she desperately loved.

“He walked so people like myself could run,” said IMAJ. “He was an authentic human being, a beautiful person. He took the time to sit with me and pass on his wisdom.

“I’m grateful to him. He told me to ‘not let anyone change who you are, stay true to your heart and your spirit.’”

During his last performance at Nashville’s Music City Center, at the CMA Awards in November, he sang a duet with another young, rising African American star, Jimmie Allen, thrilling the audience of millions with one of his No. 1 hits, “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’.”

Although that song is high on IMAJ’s list she said her favorite song from Pride is actually his cover of  Hank Williams’s “Kaw Liga.”

“Nobody sang that song like Charley Pride,” she said.

Pride, who rose to fame in the late 1960s, was known for several hits, including “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” with 27 other singles reaching No. 1 on the U.S. country singles chart.

For 20 years, from 1967 to 1987, Pride dominated country music becoming RCA Record’s top-selling country music artist, scoring 52 Top 10 country hits, chartering 67 singles, as well as earning CMA’s Entertainer of the Year award in 1971. In 2000, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1993.

His groundbreaking career would also earn him three Grammy awards, Male Vocalist of the Year in 1973 and 1974, and a Lifetime Achievement Award. With more than 70 million albums sold including 31 gold and four platinum albums, Pride has sold more records than anyone for RCA since the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. 

A trailblazer in country music, Pride was known for his rich baritone voice and classic blues style.

Pride leaves behind his wife, Rozene, three children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. 

Several others weighed in on social media about Pride’s passing:

CMA great Dolly Parton, who earlier this year pledged $1 million to coronavirus vaccine research, wrote on social media: “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. Rest In Peace. My love and thoughts go out to his family and all of his fans.”

Billy Ray Cyrus shared his expressions also. “The last time I spoke to my good friend and legend Charley Pride. We met in ‘92 playing shows together in Australia. His beloved sweetheart Rosie by his side. A gentleman… legend and true trail blazer. With much respect #RIP

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson wrote, “Charley Pride’s death is another blow in an unrelenting year. He was an icon who excelled in many fields—and a kind man. He once even let Nikki wear some of his jewelry. We’re feeling this one today. May he Rest In Peace.”

And frustration over the lack of social distancing and other precautions last month at the CMA awards didn’t sit well with many.

Singer Maren Morris wrote, “I don’t want to jump to conclusions because no family statement has been made, but if this was a result of the CMAs being indoors, we should all be outraged. Rest in power, Charley.”

The CMA released a statement on Saturday: “Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions. Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville. He was tested upon landing in Nashville, and again on show day, with all tests coming back negative. After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times. All of us in the Country Music community are heartbroken by Charley’s passing. Out of respect for his family during their grieving period, we will not be commenting on this further.”

In lieu of flowers, Pride’s family is asking for fans to donate to the Pride Scholarship at Jesuit College Preparatory School, St. Philip’s School and Community Center, the North Texas Food Bank, or other charities of your choice.  

Cheryl Smith contributed to this report.

Jirah Nicole Mickle is the newest member of the I Messenger Media Team. A graduate of Xavier University, Jirah is a multimedia journalist who loves to read, eat and write.

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