Charley Pride, who was celebrated as a country music’s first Black superstar and known for hits such as “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” and “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” died on Saturday at age 86 while in hospice care in Dallas.
The cause of his death was complications of Covid-19, said Jeremy Westby, the singer’s publicist.
Lauded as a star who paved the way for other country music artists of color, Mr. Pride was praised for his contributions to the country music canon. In November, he received the Country Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the 54th annual Country Music Association Awards, where he also performed.
Some guests at the show, which was Mr. Pride’s last public event, were not wearing masks. However, event organizers said all protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were followed.
Born March 18, 1934 in Sledge, Miss., Mr. Pride served in the army before moving to Montana to try to make it as a baseball player. There, he worked at a smelting plant and played semiprofessional baseball in East Helena, where he was paid $10 to sing the national anthem before games.
He began his country music career in the 1960s after signing with RCA Records, later quitting his factory job after his 1967 song “Just Between You and Me” became a Top 10 country hit.
As a Black man entering the country music industry in the 1960s, Mr. Pride’s career did not escape prejudice. Once radio stations learned he was Black, many refused to play his music, and during a 1970s award show, singer Loretta Lynn was told not to embrace him should he win an award she was presenting. (She did so anyway.)
“We’re not colorblind yet,” Mr. Pride wrote in his memoir, “Pride: The Charley Pride Story” (1994). “But we’ve advanced a few paces along the path, and I like to think I’ve contributed something to that process.”
During his career, Mr. Pride recorded over 50 hits that made it to Top 10 on the country charts, with over 20 hitting No. 1. Mr. Pride also racked up notable awards: Country Music Association’s male vocalist of the year in 1971 and 1972, Country Music Association’s entertainer of the year in 1971 and a lifetime achievement Grammy Award in 2017.
Dolly Parton said on Saturday she was “heartbroken” over Mr. Pride’s death, calling him one of her “dearest friends.”
“What a horrible, horrible virus,” she said on Twitter. “Charley, we will always love you.”
Mr. Pride is survived by his wife, Ebby Rozene Cohran Pride, and his children, Carlton, Charles and Angela.
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