COVID-19 has yet again claimed the life of a Black legend.

Charley Pride, the nation’s first Black country music superstar, passed away on Saturday at age 86.

The “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin” singer died in Dallas, Texas, due to complications from COVID-19, according to his publicist, Jeremy Westby. 

Pride released dozens of albums and sold more than 25 million records, all while making it to the top of the country charts 29 times in his career. Pride’s first single, 1967’s “Just Between You and Me,” broke into the Top 10 on country charts and garnered Pride his first Grammy nomination. What sets him apart from so many artists — especially Black artists in the country genre — is that he sings stories rich with honesty: “I Can’t Believe That You’ve Stopped Loving Me,” “I’m Just Me” and “Where Do I Put Her Memory,” among others.

The Country Music Association has issued a statement, since his death comes just a month after he appeared at the CMA Awards.

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“Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions. Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville,” they wrote. “He was tested upon landing in Nashville, and again on show day, with all tests coming back negative. After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times. All of us in the Country Music community are heartbroken by Charley’s passing. Out of respect for his family during their grieving period, we will not be commenting on this further.”

“To say Country Music has lost a trailblazer is an obvious understatement, but in fact one of the biggest losses is Charley’s definitive Country voice,” continued Sarah Trahern, Country Music Association CEO. “I remember working with Charley in 2009 on ‘Country Music: In Performance at the White House’ when President and Michelle Obama invited several Country artists to perform. He was a trailblazer in so many ways. It was a special night and Charley was telling amazing stories. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife Rozene and the rest of his family and friends at this sad time.”

Pride made his final public appearance at the ceremony on Nov. 11, during which he performed and was honored with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones during this time.

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