Over the weekend, the world lost legendary country crooner Charley Pride. His smooth voice and charming style broke racial barriers exactly when they needed to be broken. He came not to change, though, but to offer up his voice and share his love for the genre. His gambit worked; for nearly twenty years, his singles consistently rose to the top of the Country charts, with only one or two misfires. While the pop charts remained elusive–more to do with the style of music than racial issues–he did reach the upper levels once. 1971’s “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'” came close to a pop crossover, reaching a respectable #21.
An aside, for a moment. When I was a kid, I remember hearing Charley Pride in interview. He related a story that in retrospect might well be apocryphal but feels quite real. Shortly after his first success, he met his label mate Elvis Presley. He cordially shakes Presley’s hand, and he tells him that when he first heard “Hound Dog,” he thought Presley was Black. smile, Presley wryly said, “Well, you know, when I first heard you on the radio, I thought you were white!”
An innovator who didn’t flaunt it, Pride died Saturdayat the age of 86 from complications related to COVID-19. RIP.