According to his publicist, Jeremy Westby, Charley Pride, the trailblazing country music artist business passed away in Dallas, Texas, due to complications from COVID-19, He was 86 years old.

With a career spanning more than five decades, Pride cemented a legacy unlike any country music entertainer before him as he overcame club audiences unwilling to hear a Black singer cover Hank Williams and promoters equally skeptical at hosting his performances.

At one point in his career Pride was hailed as the best-selling artist on RCA Records since Elvis Presley and his vast collection of accolades include Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year in 1971, Male Vocalist of the Year wins in 1973 and ’74 and a 1993 invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry. And in 2000, he became the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

Not one to dwell on the negative, the singer topped the country music charts 29 times in his career, singing stories rich with honesty such as “I Can’t Believe That You’ve Stopped Loving Me,” “I’m Just Me” and “Where Do I Put Her Memory,” in his distinct signature baritone voice. Once asked which of his songs was his favorite, he responded: “The one that I’m singing at the moment. Out of 500 and some songs, that’s what my answer is.”

Pride’s legacy will continue through the likes of Darius Rucker who said, “To be doing that at a time when nobody really wanted him here, it’s crazy to look back now…. I can deal with whatever comes my way because it can’t be near what Charley went through.” Jimmie Allen (who presented Charley with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s CMAs) noted, “I might never have had a career in country music if it wasn’t for a truly groundbreaking artist, who took his best shot, and made the best kind of history in our genre.”

Listen to some of Charley Pride’s most memorable music.

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Photo: Republic Country Club