Country musician Charley Pride, the first African-American to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, has passed away at the age of 86. According to a statement issued by his publicist, Pride died on Saturday, December 12 in Dallas, Texas from complications related to COVID-19.
Pride gave his final public performance at the Country Music Association Awards on November 11, where he received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. The show had been criticized for being held indoors without the use of masks, with some claiming that Pride may have been exposed to COVID-19 at the event. “Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville,” a joint statement from the Country Music Association and representatives for Pride reads. “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.”
Born in 1934 to a sharecropper in Sledge, Mississippi, Pride served in the Army and worked at a smelting plant before pursuing a career in baseball as a pitcher in the Memphis Red Sox and the Birmingham Black Barons. Having performed solo between ball games, he moved to Nashville in 1963 to record his first demos and signed to RCA two years later. He released his first album Country in 1966, which became the first of eight albums to be certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. He went on to issue 41 studio albums, two gospel albums and a Christmas album. In addition scoring 29 No. 1 singles on the Country charts, including ‘Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’’, ‘Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone’, and ‘Mountain of Love’, he also earned four Grammy Awards throughout his career, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.
In lieu of flowers, Pride’s family request that fans honour the singer’s memory by donating to The Pride Scholarship at Jesuit College Preparatory School, St. Philips School and Community Centre.