The 90-minute special aired August 25, 2021, and was a star-studded affair.
The 90-minute special brings together many of Pride’s superstar friends — including some of the biggest names in music today — to perform his greatest hits. Among the notables on the program: Alan Jackson, Darius Rucker, Dion Pride (Charley’s son), Garth Brooks, George Strait, Gladys Knight, Jimmie Allen, Lee Ann Womack, Luke Combs, Mickey Guyton and Wynonna. Special guests Neal McCoy, Nolan Ryan, Reba, Ronnie Milsap, and Charley’s wife Rozene Pride also appear to share their personal memories and offer comments on Pride’s lasting legacy, which are blended alongside rare archival photos, interviews and performances, with clips and commentary from Charley Pride himself.
“It’s an incredibly great honor to celebrate Charley Pride’s career from the perspective of those who knew him best — his friends, family and peers,” said CMT executive producer Margaret Comeaux. “As a true ‘giant’ in country music, Charley serves as an inspiration for present and future artists, and his legendary career transcends barriers with music that stands the test of time.”
Rozene Pride added: “I am delighted to have so many giants in the business celebrate the legacy of Pride. He would have been so happy to see the artists give so generously of their time and talent honoring him. This truly is a testament to the impact that he had on the country music community for so many years.”
During his more than 50 years as a recording artist, Charlie Pride sustained one of the most successful careers in the history of country music, and helped break color barriers by becoming the first Black superstar within the genre. The Mississippi-born sharecropper’s son became a trailblazing country music icon with such hits as “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” “Kaw-Linga,” “Mountain of Love,” “You’re So Good When You’re Bad”— and “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” a massive crossover hit that sold over a million singles and helped him land the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award in 1971, and the Top Male Vocalist awards of 1971 and 1972.
Pride — who was 86 when he died of complications due to COVID-19 in a Dallas hospice last December — launched his musical career with his breakout hit “Just Between You and Me” (1967) at a time when country was largely a whites-only musical genre. Even so, New York Times writer Bryan Pietch noted in an appreciative obituary, “Though Mr. Pride faced racism in the industry — the singer Loretta Lynn was instructed not to embrace him at an awards show in the 1970s should he win the award she was presenting — many of his white counterparts in country music welcomed him as the star he had become. (He did win the award, and Ms. Lynn not only hugged but kissed him.)
“When word spread that Mr. Pride was Black, many radio stations refused to play his music. But Faron Young, a white country music star, came to Mr. Pride’s defense, telling one station manager that ‘if he takes Charley Pride off, take all my records off.’”
Here is a preview of Darius Rucker’s CMT Giants performance of the Charley Pride No. 1 hit “Someone Loves You Honey.”
Photography: Ben Di Rienzo