As word spread on Saturday (Dec. 12) of country legend Charley Pride's death from COVID-19 (coronavirus) complications, many on social media were alarmed that Pride passed away so soon after his appearance at the Country Music Association Awards (the CMA Awards).
Pride's final public performance came last month during the awards show's Nov. 11 broadcast, held at Nashville's Music City Center and hosted by Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker. That night, Pride accepted the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award and sang "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'" with one of the young, Black artists he inspired, Jimmie Allen.
CMA Awards attendee Maren Morris was among the more visible Twitter users alarmed by not just the timing, but the fact that an 86-year-old country music legend got booked for an event held indoors during a pandemic.
"I don't want to jump to conclusions because no family statement has been made, but if this was a result of the CMAs being indoors, we should all be outraged," Morris wrote in a since-deleted tweet.
Mickey Guyton responded with "gurl I thought the same damn thing" before demanding "answers as to how Charley Pride got COVID."
The CMAs have since responded with the following statement:
"Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions. Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville. He was tested upon landing in Nashville, and again on show day, with all tests coming back negative. After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times. All of us in the Country Music community are heartbroken by Charley's passing. Out of respect for his family during their grieving period, we will not be commenting on this further."
A post on Pride's Facebook page says the country singer's health struggles with the coronavirus began that same month back home in Dallas.
"He was admitted to the hospital in late November with COVID-19 type symptoms and despite the incredible efforts, skill and care of his medical team over the past several weeks, he was unable to overcome the virus," the statement reads. "Charley felt blessed to have such wonderful fans all over the world. And he would want his fans to take this virus very seriously."
Pride, a multi-Grammy award-winner and a former CMA Entertainer of the Year, has been rightly celebrated for a long lists of firsts. For example, he became the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000 (DeFord Bailey joined him in the rotunda in 2005). Pride's also remembered for a deep catalog of songs he elevated with his unmistakable baritone singing voice.