Garth Brooks Praises Charley Pride, Explains Why He is a ‘Freak of Nature’

by Suzanne Halliburton
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There’s a terrific duet with Garth Brooks and Charley Pride on Brooks’ new album, “Fun.” But unlike the title of the album, this song harkens back to a sadder time in the United States.

The song is “Where the Cross Don’t Burn.” The two distinct generations of country greatness gathered in Dallas near Pride’s home to record the song. Strumming his guitar, the 58-year-old Brooks sang most of it, but Pride, 86, joined him for the second verse.

This week, Brooks took questions from fans as part of his Facebook Inside Studio G series. One fan asked him about the duet. Brooks gushed about Pride.

“First of all, Charley Pride is a freak of nature,” Brooks said. “For one, he reminds me a lot of my dad, everything that’s a blessing is a curse and everything that is a curse is a blessing.

“Being stubborn, sometimes gets you in trouble, a lot of time it pays off for you,” Brooks said. “That’s what this guy does. What he’s done his whole career. From the neck up, he’s going to get it done. No matter how many obstacles are in front of him. He’s going to get it done.”

Garth Brooks, Charley Pride Song Is About Race Relations

The song is about race relations in a part of the country “where the cotton grows, in a time when change came slow.” The main characters are a white boy and an old Black man. In the song, the white boy says he learned about Jesus from the man, his only Black friend. The two would walk hand in hand down the railroad tracks, which divided the white area and Black area of the town.

By the end of the song, the boy attends his friend’s funeral. And the song now is about a “young boy and a kind old man.”

Pride tore down color barriers in deeply segregated country music. In 1967, Pride became the first black performer at the Grand Ole Opry since harmonica player DeFord Bailey did so from 1925-41.  Between 1969 and 1971, Pride had eight singles that reached number one on the US Country Hit Parade

He was the CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1971. And the CMA named him male vocalist of the year in 1971-72.

Last month, Pride received the CMA lifetime achievement award.

Brooks described Pride as “hard-headed” in the studio. He didn’t stop working until everything was right, Brooks said.

“Charley Pride probably did get the biggest accomplishment in country music done,” Brooks said. “[Pride] was a guy who … wasn’t traditional country music (but) the characteristics of country music are its traditions. He did his own thing, flew his own flag, all while flying the flag of country music.

“This guy worships and adores country music,” Brooks said. “And country music worships and adores him. “

Brooks released the album last month. It debuted at number seven Billboard’s Top Country Album Chart.

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