Charley Pride has died at the age of 86 in Dallas, Texas. According to an official statement on his website on Saturday, December 12. His cause of death seems to be linked to the ongoing health crisis.
After developing complications from coronavirus, the country music icon passed away just weeks after attending the 2020 CMA Awards in Nashville.
The trailblazing country legend became the first Black person to make it big in the country music world.
Pride was the first Black host of the Country Music Association Awards when he co-hosted it with Glen Campbell in 1975, and also made history as the first Black artist in the Country Music Hall of Fame following hit singles like “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin.”
Born in 1934, Pride was one of eleven children — his parents were sharecroppers in Sledge, Mississippi. His mother introduced him to music at the age of 14, but he dreamed of becoming a baseball player.
After failed attempts to succeed as a professional baseball player, he began working as a smelter where he joined a local baseball team and earned some extra cash singing before baseball games in a bid to attract larger audiences.
Pride’s singing success began when he met fellow country musician Chet Atkins who helped him sign a recording contract.
After releasing one of his most popular singles, “Just Between You and Me,” which reached number nine on the country charts in 1967, he was nominated for a Grammy Award.
He soon became the best-selling artist for RCA Records since Elvis Presley and would go on to win three Grammy Awards in total.
Only last month, Pride made a speech at the Country Music Association Awards as he was awarded the prestigious Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award for his lifelong contributions to country music.
Maren Morris, a leading voice in country music today, took to social media to mourn the passing of Pride and to slam the awards show for having the event indoors.
Morris, like many others, believes that Pride might have lost his life because he was present at the ceremony that took place at the Music City Center with a large audience in attendance.
She wrote: “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. Rest in power, Charley. F–k this f–king year.”
The CMAs have rapidly responded to the accusation with a statement that read: “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.”
Pride married Rozene Cohran in 1956, and together, they have three children – Kraig, Dion, and Angela.