Why Charley Pride Was a Pioneer for Country Music as Well as Black Musicians

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Without him, it’s hard to imagine that Darius Rucker would be enjoying life after Hootie & the Blowfish as a successful country music singer. There’d probably be no Jimmie Allen, the rising Black country star with whom Pride performed his signature 1971 crossover hit “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” at the November 11 Country Music Association Awards, where he received Lifetime Achievement honors. And we almost definitely wouldn’t have Mickey Guyton, the singer-songwriter who recently became the first Black woman to be nominated for a country Grammy since the mid-’70s with her best country song contender “Black Like Me.”

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But Pride, the man who, through my mother’s old 8-track copy of his 1969 “The Best of Charley Pride” album, helped kick off my life-long love affair with country music, was so much more than his skin color. A former minor-league baseball player, he would not have broken country music’s unspoken color code to excel in the genre, both commercially and critically, without exceptional talent.


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