The news today of the death of Charley Pride, though awfully sad, also timed itself with a Saturday night and another Grand Ole Opry radio show. That may seem an odd way to write the opening to this post, but if you know the Opry family and the institution that it has remained for almost 100 years you too will grasp why it is fitting. Pride would understand.
The 86-year-old country music legend was being played on our home’s turntable as recently as two weeks ago. His rich baritone has never stopped being an essential part of my musical collection.
The first Black member of the Grand Ole Opry and the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame died from complications from the coronavirus. The singer had three Grammy Awards, more than 30 No. 1 hits between 1969 and 1984, won the Country Music Association’s Top Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year awards in 1972, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
Yes, the man was most talented and loved by millions worldwide. The Smithsonian in Washington acquired memorabilia from Pride, including a pair of boots and one of his guitars, for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In 2010 Pride played the White House with President Obama and First Lady Michelle knowing, they too, were seeing a legend.
Tonight the big red curtain at the Opry will lift up, and another show will be presented in a safe manner given the pandemic. There will be kind words about Pride and likely a tribute song or two. We will know the larger Opry family ‘up there’ has a new voice.