On November 11th, Charley Pride took the stage at the 2020 Country Music Association Awards to receive the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor the organization gives out to “an iconic artist who has attained the highest degree of recognition in Country Music.”
Pride, of course, was a natural choice for the award. He had received the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year in 1971, and his ground-breaking career has included becoming RCA’s bestselling artist since Elvis Presley, with 70 million records sold.
Pride appeared at the CMA Awards alongside Jimmie Allen — another star who is working to break country music boundaries just as Pride did 50 years ago. They performed “Kiss an Angel Good Morning’,” a 1971 Number One hit for Pride. In the audience, Eric Church watched with a grin as Ashley McBryde danced.
Onstage, Pride humbly acknowledged that he was “nervous as can be.” During a press conference backstage, he recalled something producer Cowboy Jack Clement told him: “He said, ‘Charley, these songs we recorded right now, 50 years from now, you’ll be able to play them and they’’ll love them.’ I looked at him and I said, ’50 years?’ Anyway.”
It was Pride’s last performance. On Saturday, it was announced that Pride died from complications due to Covid-19. So far, he has received tributes from artists including Dolly Parton, who tweeted: “I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away. It’s even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you.”