In this second part of His sanctified, reporters from the USA TODAY Network examine the state of the race in country music, travel the South in search of untold stories, and spotlight a new, eclectic generation of black artists.
The legacy of Charley Pride burns brightly.
From “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin ‘” to “Mountain of Love,” the Country Music Hall of Fame artist has entertained generations with a voice-rich narration that Pride humbly delivered like never before.
He paved the way for a format, becoming the first black superstar to top the country charts. Artists ranging from groundbreaking “Black Like Me” singer Mickey Guyton to country legend Garth Brooks – and an endless roster in between – share boundless respect for what Pride has accomplished.
For his son Dion Pride, the late singer represented a “universal” sound heard in country music. Charley Pride died in December of complications from COVID-19. He was 86 years old.
“I never listened to my dad with color,” Dion Pride told USA TODAY, adding, “I never realized or occurred to me that he had the pigmentation that he had. I think it was something about… his character and his way with people – and of course the delivery of his voice – that was very universal.
“I feel like I’m biased, but I really believe my dad was the best ever.”
Still, Dion Pride didn’t see Charley Pride – the artist – much at home, he said.
“His character, his humility, his humility; he was always a dad when he came home,” Dion Pride said. “He always said he was the well. If you want the answers, come see him. So I spent a lot of time choosing his brain over wisdom and life.… I saw [the on-stage entertainer] from afar, if that makes sense. ”
Then Dion Pride started touring with his father. He quickly found himself with a behind-the-scenes view of his father’s excellence. He toured intermittently with Charley Pride’s touring band for over two decades, playing keyboards or guitar. Dion Pride sometimes opened the show.
He saw the power of his father’s voice at a performance in Ireland, where the singer sang a cappela on the folk standard “Danny Boy”.
“They start to sing with him [and] he lowers the microphone, ”said Dion Pride. “They stop singing when he stops singing. He said, ‘No, it’s your song. You sing.’ … They were just shouting at him, ‘No. Sing it with us. Sing it with us. ‘”
“He starts singing with them. And there is nothing more powerful than the human voice,” Dion Pride continued. “Hearing my dad… it might sound corny, but I felt levitated that night. ”
His father’s legacy flared abroad that night, and he continues to burn with a new generation of artists brought up on his showmanship.
“Excluding race, culture, [the] country you’re from, he brought people together, “Dion Pride said.” That’s the lesson I learned from him. He brought people together as people.
“There was never any thought or hint of differences. It was a united and reciprocal experience for everyone beyond our natural, I would say, conditioned cultures and races shortcomings. something invaluable that I was able to learn from my father. ”
Dion Pride joined George Strait, Alan Jackson, Jimmie Allen, Luke Combs, Lee Ann Womack, Darius Rucker and many more to pay homage to Charley Pride last month on a TV special, “CMT Giants: Charley Pride “.