Charley Pride was legendary on so many levels. His 50-plus years in the industry and dozens of hit records would impress anyone, but he also won multiple Grammys, was the first black star inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000 and had just been awarded the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement award at this year’s CMA Awards.
Raised on blues, gospel and country music, Pride bought his first guitar at age 14 and learned to play by ear. He spent a good portion of his life after that pursuing baseball but ended up making history in music when he really came into his own in 1967.
According to his website, Pride sold tens of millions of records all over the world and had 52 Top 10 Country hits to his name. Some of his best-known songs were “Kiss an Angel Good Morning,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” “Where Do I Put Her Memory,” “Mountain of Love” and “Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town.”
He did so much for country music and especially for black country music, inspiring so many other artists. “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,” Jimmie Allen said at the CMA Awards.
On Saturday, Pride’s fans and fellow musicians were dealt a blow when his family announced that the country music superstar had died at age 86.
“It is with great sadness that we confirm that Charley Pride passed away this morning, Saturday, December 12, 2020, in Dallas, Texas of complications from Covid-19 at age 86,” the family posted on his Facebook page.
“He was admitted to the hospital in late November with Covid-19 type symptoms and despite the incredible efforts, skill and care of his medical team over the past several weeks, he was unable to overcome the virus.
“Charley felt blessed to have such wonderful fans all over the world. And he would want his fans to take this virus very seriously.”
“I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away,” Dolly Parton tweeted Saturday. “It’s even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you.”
I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away. It’s even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you. (1/2)
— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) December 12, 2020
Many quickly drew the connection between his death from COVID-19 and his appearance on the widely publicized 54th annual CMA Awards on Nov. 11.
“I don’t want to jump to conclusions because no family statement has been made,” Maren Morris wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted, according to CNN. “But if this was a result of the CMAs being indoors, we should all be outraged. Rest in power, Charley.”
“We need answers as to how Charley Pride got covid,” Mickey Guyton wrote in response to Morris’ tweet.
But according to the CMA, everyone who attended the event — Pride included — went through the same rigorous screening process.
“Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions,” the Country Music Association said in a statement on their website.
“Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville,” it said. “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.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.