Friday, March 18, 2011
When I was growing up, Charley Pride was a regular feature on my mother's stereo; even when, as a teenager, I rebelled against everything my parents liked and stood for (a fit of pique still going strong even in its twenty-fifth year) there were a few things - and people - who survived the rebellion. Charley Pride was among them; one of the few African-Americans to excel in the whiter-than-white world of country music - although his invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry didn't come until 1993 - he remains the only black member in the history of that august institution. In other words, the sort of person tailor-made for me to admire.
During the 1960s and 1970s his sound was described as Countrypolitan, and Pride was one of those responsible for helping to bring country music into the mainstream, as well as the first - and some would say, only - one to bring it to black audiences. This song was one such smash hit; Kiss an Angel Good Mornin' went to number 1 in the country chart, in addition to grazing the bottom of the Top Twenty on the pop charts in 1971. It remains one of Pride's signature tunes.
Born on this day in 1938, before Pride was a singer, he was a baseball player, pitching for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League in 1952. In 1974, at the height of his fame, Pride faced legendary Baltimore Orioles pitcher (and underwear pitchman) Jim Palmer for the Texas Rangers during that season's training camp in Florida; he grounded out and singled during his two at-bats, helping the Orioles cinch the game 14-2.
Now in his 70s, Pride still performs concerts around the world, wowing audiences wherever he appears...
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