Blake Shelton, Dolly Parton and More Country Stars Mourn the Death of Country Icon Charley Pride

by Matthew Wilson

Charley Pride meant a lot of things to a lot of different people. All of country music is mourning today (Dec. 12) after the music icon passed away.

Pride passed away at 86 after complications related to COVID-19. He wasn’t the first country music talent to die from the virus. For country music fans, 2020 has been a difficult year with the passing of many legends. Today left a Charley Pride-shaped hole in the industry and people’s lives. But the country singer will continue to live on in his music.

Now several of Pride’s fellow musicians are sharing stories and tributes to the artist’s legacy. Pride was the first African American country music star to make it big. And he did it during a time of segregation when the road to success was gated and closed off.

Jason Aldean acknowledged the struggles that Pride must have faced on his way to the top. For instance, the record label refused to give his photo to radio stations. Because they didn’t want the stations to know he was black.

On Instagram, Aldean wrote, “I can’t imagine what this man went through as a Black Country Music artist trying to break into this business. But what a career he had. I grew up such a fan of his music and his voice and he will be greatly missed by all of us.”

Charley Pride Grew Up As a Sharecropper

As a musician, Pride came from humble beginnings. He grew up as a sharecropper in Sledge, Mississippi with little money to his name. In fact, he bought his first guitar with money he made from picking cotton. Dolly Parton can probably relate to Pride’s story. She also grew up in poverty among a family of a dozen.

Before he was a country music star, Pride played professional baseball in the segregated Negro American League. He also served in the Army as a young man. But he always returned to that dream of music. As a young boy, he would listen to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio and some part of him imagined himself on that same stage.

He finally got the chance in 1967 when he performed for the first time at the Opry. Pride also joined the organization a couple of decades later in 1993. He finally gave in because the organization wouldn’t stop asking for him to join their ranks. Fellow Opry member Reba McEntire remembers Pride’s legacy.

She wrote, “Charley Pride will always be a legend in Country music. He will truly be missed but will always be remembered for his great music, wonderful personality and his big heart.”

The Music Icon Was An Inspiration For Generations

Pride had a prolific career as a musician with a large number of hits. Through his career, Pride had 29 No. 1 hits and 67 singles to his name. He also won several awards including three Grammys and most recently the CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.

“Kiss An Angel Good Morning” and “Just Between You and Me” are some of the classics Pride recorded during his career. The former happens to be one of Blake Shelton’s favorite and early induction into country music.

Over his decades-long career, Pride interacted with several country music stars.

For instance, country singer Travis Tritt will always be grateful for the chance to record music with Pride. He opened up about his time with the country icon and how the two quickly became friends.

They often say that the legacy of a man isn’t what he did for himself but for others. In that case, Pride’s life casts a long shadow.

The musician wasn’t just content with his own fame, but he wanted to help the younger generation find their way in the country music industry. Pride would often work with up and coming talent, including a young Brad Paisley.

Paisley detailed how he first met the country music legend when Paisley was only 15. He wrote, “The most generous, kind, trailblazing man has left us. I met Charley Pride when I was 15. He gave his home phone number to my dad, and said ‘I’d love to help your son.’ And help he did.”

Even relatively new singers to the industry like Luke Combs recognize the impact that Pride had on the genre. Combs shared his own moment with the singer.