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Charley Pride: A Country Music Legend
Charley Pride was an American singer, guitarist, and professional baseball player who broke new ground in the 1960s by becoming the most successful African American star in country music history. He had 52 top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, 30 of which made it to number one. He won several awards, including four Grammys, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. He died on December 12, 2020, from complications of COVID-19, leaving behind a legacy of hard-core honky-tonk country music that inspired generations of fans and artists.
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Charley Pride's Biography
Charley Frank Pride was born on March 18, 1934, in Sledge, Mississippi, the fourth of eleven children of poor sharecroppers. His father intended to name him Charl Frank Pride, but owing to a clerical error on his birth certificate, his legal name was Charley Frank Pride. He grew up listening to Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts featuring Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, and other country stars. He also developed a passion for baseball and taught himself to play guitar at age 14.
Pride pursued a career as a pitcher and outfielder in the Negro American League in the early 1950s. He played for several teams, including the Memphis Red Sox, the Birmingham Black Barons, and the Louisville Clippers. He also served in the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1958. In 1960, he moved to Montana, where he played minor-league and semiprofessional baseball and performed music in local nightclubs.
Pride's musical talent was noticed by country stars Red Sovine and Red Foley, who encouraged him to pursue a recording contract in Nashville. After facing some resistance from the industry due to his race, he finally signed with RCA Victor in 1965, with the backing of producer Jack Clement. His first single, "The Snakes Crawl at Night", was released without a publicity photo to avoid revealing his skin color. His breakthrough came in 1966 with his fourth single, "Just Between You and Me", which reached number nine on the country chart and earned him his first Grammy nomination.
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Pride quickly became one of the most popular and successful country artists of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He had a string of number one hits, such as "All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)", "(I'm So) Afraid of Losing You Again", "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'", "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone", "I'm Just Me", "Amazing Love", and "Mountain of Love". He won the Entertainer of the Year award at the Country Music Association Awards in 1971 and three Grammy awards for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1972, 1973, and 2017. He also became one of the few African American members of the Grand Ole Opry in 1993.
Pride continued to record and perform throughout the 1980s and beyond, although his commercial success declined as country music became more pop-oriented. He released more than 40 albums and sold over 70 million records worldwide. He also collaborated with other artists, such as Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Jim Reeves, Conway Tw itty, and Charley Rich. He also covered songs by artists such as Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles. He was known for his distinctive baritone voice, his traditional country sound, and his humble and gracious personality.
Death and tributes
Pride died on December 12, 2020, in Dallas, Texas, at the age of 86, from complications of COVID-19. He had performed his last show on November 11, 2020, at the CMA Awards, where he received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. He sang his signature song, "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'", with Jimmie Allen, a young African American country singer who cited Pride as his idol.
Pride's death was mourned by many fans and fellow musicians, who paid tribute to his legacy and influence on country music. Dolly Parton tweeted, "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." Willie Nelson wrote, "Charley Pride was a good friend and a great entertainer. He will be missed by all of us in the music industry." Garth Brooks said, "The world lost one of the best today. Rest in peace Charley Pride. I love you."
Charley Pride's Songs
His musical style and influences
Charley Pride was influenced by various genres of music, including country, blues, gospel, and rock and roll. He grew up listening to country legends like Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, and Bill Monroe. He also admired blues singers like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf. He said that his favorite singer of all time was Frank Sinatra.
Pride's musical style was rooted in the honky-tonk tradition of country music, with simple melodies, catchy hooks, and relatable lyrics. He sang about love, heartbreak, faith, and everyday life with honesty and emotion. He also incorporated elements of gospel, soul, and pop into his songs. He said that his goal was to make music that appealed to everyone, regardless of race or background.
His most popular songs and albums
Charley Pride had a remarkable record of chart success in his career. He had 52 top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart between 1966 and 1987, 30 of which reached number one. He also had eight top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1969 and 1974.
Some of his most popular songs include:
"Just Between You and Me" (1966): His first top-10 hit and Grammy-nominated song.
"All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)" (1969): His first number one hit and one of his signature songs.
"(I'm So) Afraid of Losing You Again" (1969): His second number one hit and another fan favorite.
"Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'" (1971): His biggest crossover hit and most recognizable song.
"Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone" (1970): A classic country song with a Tex-Mex flavor.
"I'm Just Me" (1971): A song that celebrates his identity and individuality.
"Amazing Love" (1973): A romantic ballad that showcases his vocal range.
"Mountain of Love" (1982): A remake of a rockabilly song by Harold Dorman.
Some of his most popular albums include:
Pride of Country Music (1967): His first album to reach the top 10 on the country chart.
The Best of Charley Pride (1969): His first album to reach number one on the country chart and number 16 on the pop chart.
Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs (1971): His second album to reach number one on the country chart and number 23 on the pop chart.
A Sunshiny Day with Charley Pride (1972): His third album to reach number one on the country chart and number 24 on the pop chart.
The Happiness of Having You (1975): His fourth album to reach number one on the country chart.
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