Pioneering country singer Charley Pride, who paved the way for Black artists in America’s historically exclusionary country-music institutions, is dead at 86 due to complications from the coronavirus. According to a statement from his team, Pride passed away in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, December 12. Just last month, on November 11, Pride gave his final performance at the 2020 Country Music Awards in Nashville, which were controversially held indoors despite the ongoing pandemic. At the ceremony, Pride performed his 1971 hit “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” and was honored with the CMAs’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
Pride was born in 1934 to sharecroppers in Sledge, Mississippi, and played minor league and Negro American League pro baseball throughout the 1950s before signing with RCA and transitioning to a career in music in the 1960s. Over the course of two decades, Pride had 52 Billboard Top 10 country hits, 30 of which hit number one on the charts, and earned four Grammy Awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. Pride remains one of only three Black artists, along with DeFord Bailey and Darius Rucker, to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. He is survived by his siblings; his wife of over 60 years, Rozene Cohran; and their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Update, December 12, at 9:30 p.m.: The CMAs have issued a statement regarding the death of Charley Pride, just one month after the 86-year-old country music legend was honored with the CMAs’ Lifetime Achievement Award in person at an in-door ceremony. “Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions,” reads the official statement from CMAs representatives. “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.”