Acclaimed country singer Charley Pride died Saturday in Dallas, at age 86, due to complications from Covid-19.
He had three Grammy Awards, more than 30 Number 1 hits between 1969 and 1984, won the Country Music Association’s Top Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year awards in 1972 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. Charley Pride was a music dynamo, releasing dozens of albums and selling more than 25 million records during his career. He recently won the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Country Music Association.
His distinctive styling and baritone voice won him appreciative fans spanning decades. His social brilliance was not as well known. This 1992 quote should be remembered as a contributing part of his enduring legacy:
“They used to ask me how it feels to be the `first colored country singer,‘” he told The Dallas Morning News. “Then it was `first Negro country singer;’ then `first black country singer.’ Now I’m the `first African-American country singer.’ That’s about the only thing that’s changed. This country is so race-conscious, so ate-up with colors and pigments. I call it `skin hangups’ — it’s a disease.”
Previously, in 1985 he told the Associated Press, “Music is a beautiful way of expressing oneself and I truly believe music should not be taken as a protest. You can go too far in anything — singing, acting, whatever — and become politicized to the point you cease to be an entertainer.”
Charley and his wife Rozene married in 1956 while he was on Christmas leave from Army basic training and celebrated over a half century together. They had three children.
Charley Pride will be missed.