Baseball loss was the music world’s gain when Charley Pride failed to make it from Negro League Baseball to Major League Baseball and instead recorded music. On Saturday, the world suffered the loss of the first black superstar to country music when Pride died at 86.
Unfortunately, Pride killed one in almost 300,000 Americans covid-19, as the raging pandemic continues to take a tragic toll in the United States and around the world.
Born in 1934 into a foster family of 11 children in the Delta town of Sledge, Miss., Charley Frank Pride played baseball in the early 1950s for the Memphis Red Sox and Birmingham Black Barons in the Negro American League until they were drafted into the Army. in 1956. He failed in his attempt to join Major League Baseball after military service.
As a pitcher known for his basket ball, Pride squared off future Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, to name a few black ball players who eventually played Major League Baseball when desegregation finally came when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. .
“When Jackie Robinson went to the big leagues, I picked cotton next to my dad,” Pride recalled. “And I said to myself, ‘Here is my way out of the cotton field.'”
But after failing Major League trials, Pride moved to Tennessee and began making country music records in Nashville in 1963. He signed a contract with RCA Records in 1965, and his career began in 1967 with “Just Between You a Me”, his record that came in the top 10 on Billboard’s country music chart.
The rest was history and a legendary career that included 52 top 10 billboard hits and a place in the hearts of millions of country music fans. Pride sold more albums for RCA than any other artist, with the exception of Elvis Presley. He was the first black artist to sing at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry.
The road to success is often filled with gaps, but also fortified with an invisible foundation – a critical infrastructure without which the journey would never have been.
For Charley Pride, it was his early days with a loving family struggling to make ends meet and a mother and father who took the time to share their passion for music with him.
“I learned that you have to share a lot, and [that] you hit each other a lot on the head, and try to get one biscuit before the other, ”Pride reminded. “We lived in what we called a ‘shotgun house,’ and there was a bed on this side and a bed on this side, and we slept three and four to one bed. I remember sometimes waking up and my brother’s toes was right in my nose. ”
But it was not just poverty and the need to stretch a dollar that shaped Pride’s young life.
It was faith and music – and a lot of both.
“Mom and Dad liked gospel music, so they used to listen to Five Blind Boys from both Alabama and Mississippi,” Pride recalled.
Looking back, Pride had particularly fond memories of Hank Williams’ classic, “I’ll Have a New Body” – an upbeat, melodic hymn that longs for eternal life.
Pride’s father’s favorite bluegrass singer was Bill Monroe, a mandolinist, singer and songwriter whose 69-year career also marked the young Charley’s focus and glow.
Pride’s mother bought the little that was available and bought the future County Music Hall of Famers’ first guitar from Sears Roebuck for $ 14.
“We got it over in the evening … and I left it in the carriage, and it was raining. It was just glued together, you know, ”Pride said years later. “It was called Silvertone. I kept trying to set it, and it kept bending and bending with strings [and] glued around it. ”
During his legendary career, Pride’s talents and achievements were recognized with a number of awards, including four Grammys and this year’s entertainer and vocalist.
“I did not enter this industry to win awards,” he reflected. “But I’m happy to receive them.”
During the 80’s, Pride was once asked how he preserved his voice at an age when peers lost theirs.
“Do not fear my voice,” he laughed. “I have been blessed with it.”
While acknowledging his pioneering role as a black country music artist, Pride regularly downplayed the role or importance of race in ascension or success.
“Journalists will say, ‘Now, Charley, how does it feel to be Jackie Robinson of country music?’ or ‘How does it feel to be the first colored country singer?’, Pride said.
His usual response was, “Well, I’m Charley Pride, the faithful American.”
In what can only be seen as a fatal fate, Pride’s last performance on November 11 returned to the roots of the faith in Mississippi.
Pride took the stage at the Country Music Awards 2020 to receive the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, and sang his iconic award-winning song “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin.” “
“Well, people can try to guess, the secret to my happiness,” he sang. “But some of them never learn that it’s a simple thing, the secret I’m talking about is a woman and a man in love, and the answer is in this song I always sing.”
Pride now sings with the angels and is reunited with the people who introduced him to his love of music.
But Charley Pride’s long life is a reminder that failure is never final, and disappointments can often open up a world we would never have imagined if not for a particular defeat.