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Charley Pride Through the Years: The Country Legend's Life in Photos


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Born on March 18, 1934 in Mississippi, trailblazing country singer Charley Pride was a true country music legend. At his career peak in the early 1970s, Pride was selling more records than anyone in the history of RCA Records besides Elvis Presley. During his lifetime, Pride scored 30 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. In celebration of his birthday, read on to learn more about this iconic country performer who broke barriers.

1952-1960: Pride Works as Professional Baseball Player

Country singer Charley Pride waves after singing the national anthem before game three of the ALDSthe Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Although Pride's mother bought him his first guitar at age 14 and he taught himself how to play, he had always dreamed of playing professional baseball. In 1952, he pitched for the Memphis Red Sox, which was part of the Negro American League. He also played for the Birmingham Black Barons and for several minor league teams, including the Boise Yankees and Missoula Timberjacks. Before his baseball career ended, Pride was a two-time Negro League All-Star champion. He is pictured here in 2010 after singing the national anthem at a baseball game in Arlington, Texas.

1966-1970: Pride's Singing Career Is a Home Run for Fans

Charley Pride 1970

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

During his professional baseball career, Pride was sometimes paid an additional $10 on top of the $10 he was paid each game for singing about 15 minutes before playing ball. In 1966, Pride released his first RCA Victor single, "The Snakes Crawl at Night." Pride said, "People didn't care if I was pink. [RCA] decided to put the record out and let it speak for itself." In 1967, Pride's third single, "Just Between You and Me," reached number nine on the Hot Country Songs chart. His 1969 compilation album, The Best of Charley Pride, sold more than one million copies.

1971: Pride Releases His Greatest Hit

Country singer Charley Pride with his wife Rozene.

© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

In 1971, Pride released "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'," a million-selling crossover single that became his biggest hit. It topped the country charts for five weeks in late '71 and early '72, and became his only song to chart on the pop charts. Pride won the CMA Entertainer of the Year award as well as Male Vocalist of the Year for 1971 and 1972. He is pictured here in 1972 with his wife, Rozene, whom he married in 1956.

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1975: Pride Ends a Concert Ban in Northern Ireland

Charley Pride, US Country music singer, wearing a silver jacket and holding a microphone during a live concert performance, circa 1975.

Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

At the height of the Troubles conflict in Northern Ireland in 1976, Pride played a concert at Belfast's Ritz Cinema. His song "Crystal Chandeliers" was released in both the U.K. and Northern Ireland, where it was perceived as a symbol of unity and healing. After Pride's performance effectively ended the concert ban, more acts were booked from around the world in Northern Ireland.

1981: Further Career Growth & Accolades

Conway Twitty, George Jones and Charley Pride at the 1981 Grammy Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on February 25, 1981.

Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Pride sold more than 70 million records during his career, including albums, singles and compilations. Other hits from the '70s and '80s include "Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town," "Someone Loves You, Honey," "When I Stop Leavin' (I'll Be Gone)," "Burgers and Fries," "I Don't Think She's in Love Anymore" and many more. He won four Grammys during his career, including a 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. He is pictured here at the 1981 Grammys alongside fellow country legends Conway Twitty and George Jones.

1993: Pride Becomes a Member of the Grand Ole Opry

 Recording Artist Charley Pride performs onstage at The Grand Ole Opry on June 9, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)

Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images

On May 1, 1993, Pride became a member of the Opry, becoming the first Black artist to be invited to join. (To this day, Pride is one of only two Black artists to be invited to join the Opry. Darius Rucker was invited to join in 2012.)

A year later, he published his book Pride: The Charley Pride Story, in which he talks about his childhood in Mississippi and how racism has affected his career. He is pictured here in 2017 performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

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2017: Pride Releases His Final Studio Album

Charley Pride, subject of "American Masters - Charley Pride: I'm Just Me," speaks during the PBS segment of the 2019 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on February 01, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Pride released his final album, Music in My Heart, on July 7, 2017.

In 2020, Pride was honored with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 54th Country Music Association Awards, shortly before Pride passed away on December 12, 2020 at age 86 from COVID-19. The CEO of the CMA summed it up best by saying, "Charley Pride is the epitome of a trailblazer. Few other artists have grown country music's rich heritage and led to the advancement of country music around the world like Charley. His distinctive voice has created a timeless legacy that continues to echo through the country community today."

 

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