Charley Pride was one of the most successful and influential country music artists of all time. He was also the first Black superstar in a genre that was dominated by white performers. His remarkable career spanned six decades, during which he sold over 70 million records, won four Grammy Awards, and became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry.
Pride was born in 1934 in Sledge, Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper. He grew up listening to country music on the radio and taught himself to play guitar. He also had a talent for baseball and played in the Negro American League. He served in the Army for two years and then pursued a career in music.
He faced many challenges and prejudices as a Black man trying to break into the country music industry. He had to overcome skepticism from record labels, radio stations, and audiences who were not used to seeing a Black face on a country stage. He also had to deal with racism and discrimination in his personal life.
But Pride did not let these obstacles stop him from pursuing his passion. He signed with RCA Records in 1965 and released his first single, “The Snakes Crawl at Night”. His breakthrough came in 1966 with “Just Between You and Me”, which reached the top 10 on the country charts. He soon became a regular on the Grand Ole Opry and a popular performer across the country.
Pride’s distinctive voice and style appealed to fans of all backgrounds and races. He sang with sincerity and emotion, blending traditional country elements with soul and gospel influences. He recorded dozens of hit songs, including “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'”, “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone”, “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)”, and “Mountain of Love”. He also won numerous awards and accolades, such as the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year.
Pride continued to record and perform until his death in 2020 from complications of COVID-19. He was 86 years old. He left behind a legacy of music that transcended boundaries and inspired generations of artists. He was a trailblazer who paved the way for other Black musicians in country music, such as Darius Rucker, Mickey Guyton, and Kane Brown. He was also a humble and gracious man who loved his fans and his family.
Charley Pride was more than just a country singer. He was a legend, a pioneer, and an icon.