Music

Darius Rucker, Dolly Parton + More Mourn the Loss of Charley Pride

Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP and Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

After news broke on Dec. 12 that country music legend Charley Pride had passed away in Dallas from COVID-19 (coronavirus) complications, his fellow recording artists and other luminaries took to social media and paid tribute to country music's first Black superstar.

Dolly Parton reflected on a fellow legend with career beginnings in the '60s.

"I'm so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away," Parton wrote on Twitter. "It's even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you."

Darius Rucker's name got written next to Pride's in recent years as the Hootie and the Blowfish singer became the second African American to co-host the CMA (Country Music Association) Awards (Pride did it first) and the second Black man to join the Grand Ole Opry in recent memory (and the third overall, if you count early Opry influencer DeFord Bailey).

"My heart is so heavy," Rucker wrote. "Charley Pride was an icon a legend and any other word u wanna use for his greatness. He destroyed barriers and did things that no one had ever done. But today I'm thinking of my friend. Heaven just got one of the finest people I know. I miss and love u CP!"

Others have childhood memories of how Pride's hits impacted their own musical journeys.

"I was ten years old in 1972 standing on stage in Marceline, Missouri at the Frontier Jamboree when Charley Pride came on stage to sing his new number one song, 'Kiss An Angel Good Mornin''," Rhonda Vincent said, as quoted by 2911 Media. "I got my photo with Charley. I was awestruck watching a Grand Ole Opry star in person. The last time I saw Charley was when we filmed Country's Family Reunion. He was always so friendly. We will miss his amazing voice and the trailblazer he was. Sending my thoughts and prayers to the family of Charley Pride." 

?George Strait's tribute points back to early career memories.

"So sad to hear about the loss of my old friend Charley Pride today," Strait wrote on Twitter. "He was an amazing entertainer and could sing a country song like no other. I had the privilege of getting to work with him early in my career and he couldn't have been nicer and more welcoming to a new guy."

Trisha Yearwood eloquently championed Pride's legacy while offering condolences to his wife Rozene, daughter Angela and sons Dion and Carlton.

"Charley Pride was a hero, and a trailblazer in country music," Yearwood wrote on Twitter. "Everyone who had the pleasure of knowing Charley loved him. He was truly one of the kindest people I've ever met. I am saddened beyond belief. My heart is with Rozene and the family tonight."

Tributes went beyond the Nashville establishment and included such celebrities as Whoopi Goldberg.

"My friend Charley Pride passed away today," Goldberg said, as shared by 2911 Media. "He was a man I very much admired because he took the road less traveled by becoming not just a country singer but a driving force in county music. More than 50 of his songs have been in the top 10 AND his music has hit #1 30 times. I wanted Charley to be recognized by the Kennedy Center because as a Black man his life was large and I thought after being a baseball player, a business owner and the only black man most of us knew who sang country music, he should have gotten The Kennedy Center Honors. I will simply say he was a wonderful man & a great artist. My condolences to his family and the fact this is also another COVID-related death breaks my heart because it didn't have to be this way. Rest In Peace Charley Pride, RIP. Many thanks to the CMAs for recognizing Charley Pride's achievements this year."

The son of sharecroppers, Charley Frank Pride was born on March 18, 1934 in Sledge, Mississippi. His 10 siblings from back home include fellow Negro League baseball player Mack Pride Jr. (both brothers played for the Memphis Red Sox) and Texas singer-songwriter Stephen Pride.

After years of trying to see out his Major League Baseball dreams, Pride turned his attention to country music. His groundbreaking run with RCA Records began with the 1966 single "The Snakes Crawl at Night" and proved itself permanent when "All I Have to Offer You (is Me)" topped the country charts in 1969. By the end of the '70s, Pride was a three-time Grammy award winner, a former CMA Entertainer of the Year and his label's best-selling performer since Elvis Presley.

Between his chart debut in 1966 and 1989, Pride had 29 No. 1 country hits and over 50 Top 10 tracks on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, including "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone" (1970) and "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'" (1971).

Read More: 10 of Charley Pride's Greatest Songs

Pride's final major appearance in Music City came last month at the CMA Awards show, during which he accepted the organization's Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.

After singing "Best Shot," presenter Jimmie Allen made a short speech in which he credited Pride for "taking his best shot and making the best kind of history in our genre."

Pride performed "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'" with Allen as his duet partner right after a video aired that chronicled several of Pride's achievements.

"Charley Pride was a trail blazer whose remarkable voice & generous spirit broke down barriers in country music just as his hero Jackie Robinson had in baseball," wrote documentary filmmaker Ken Burns on Twitter. "His last performance was his hit, 'Kiss an Angel Good Mornin.' Now he is one."

Now Watch: 'Me and Bobby McGee': The Story Behind the Song

recommended for you

Darius Rucker, Dolly Parton + More Mourn the Loss of Charley Pride