On Monday, Garth Brooks honored his late friend and fellow country music legend Charley Pride during the Recording Industry Association of America Awards.
Sadly, Pride passed away in December 2020 from Covid-19 complications. He had just accepted a similar lifetime award at the CMA Awards only weeks before. Therefore Brooks presented Pride’s son, Dion, with the RIAA lifetime achievement award for his father’s contributions over his lengthy music career. While speaking at the event in Nashville, Tennessee, Brooks gushed about Pride to the attending crowd.
“I love anything that he did,” Garth Brooks told the audience, according to PEOPLE. “Because he was one of those guys that didn’t ever give you 99 percent. It was a hundred percent or nothing … And I think that was something that you kind of learned as a kid, even before you got in the business. ‘Son, if you’re going to do this, don’t leave any of you out. Let’s bring everything you got.’ That’s what … he specialized in.”
During a separate event on Tuesday, Garth Brooks spoke to Vanderbilt University writer-in-residence Alice Randall. She teaches music and African-American studies at the Nashville college. The pair came together to discuss Pride’s life and music in the city’s brand new National Museum of African American Music. Brooks sat on stage with an acoustic guitar and performed bits of Pride’s famous tracks for those in attendance as well.
“The guy’s a freak of nature,” Brooks proclaimed. “He was just gifted beyond belief and was so humble about his gifts. I’ve seen people that are gifted one-tenth as much as him that had a head bigger than God himself. But this guy was just humble, fun and talented … You try and sing his stuff. Good luck, Hoss.”
Garth Brooks Calls Charley Pride a ‘Unifier’
While Garth Brooks continued to talk about the late Charley Pride, he touched on his impact within country music as well. Pride broke racial barriers starting in the 1960s as country music’s first commercially successful Black artist.
The musician from Mississippi would go on to earn 29 No. 1 hits. In addition, his album sales totaled more than 70 million. Pride’s amazing voice and authentic country lyrics helped him become the genre’s first-ever Black superstar. He truly paved the way for many others within country music, and Brooks called him a “unifier” before the term was coined.
“This guy was a unifier before unifiers weren’t even thought of,” Garth Brooks explained.
The “Friends in Low Places” singer added that he found a lot of truth in two contradictory statements.
“It didn’t matter that Charley Pride was Black,” Brooks said before adding, “It mattered so much that Charley Pride was Black.”
“In places where it shouldn’t matter, it didn’t,” Brooks continued. “And when it should’ve mattered, this man was the most proud of that. And that’s among many things that made me love him — and made me want to be more like Charley Pride.”