Charley Pride accepted the highly coveted lifetime achievement award at the 2020 Country Music Association Awards on Wednesday night.
“With all the people that have been influenced by my life, what my life has been influenced by, I got to say something about some of them,” Pride, 86, said in his acceptance speech before thanking a host of people including Jack Clement, a renowned country producer, engineer and songwriter who produced Pride’s first 13 RCA albums.
Pride was named CMA entertainer of the year in 1971 and inducted into the CMA’s Hall of Fame in 2000. During the prime of his career, starting in 1966 and running through the 1980s, he earned 52 top-10 hits on the Billboard Country songs chart, 30 of which were No. 1. Pride is one of the few Black artists to gain membership into the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville’s esteemed weekly country music event.
Pride’s award comes at a time when some Black country artists have said they’d been overlooked when it comes to opportunities and recognition given to white counterparts. Seeing him win is a proud moment across the industry as many credit Pride for trailblazing a lane into country music that Black artists can follow.
Singer Jimmy Allen said that without Pride, there wouldn’t be himself, Darius Rucker, Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton, Cowboy Troy, or “any other Black country artist that’s on their way right now,” according to The Associated Press. Allen added that Pride’s accomplishments are even more remarkable given that he earned them during the civil rights era while facing discrimination and breaking barriers.
Allen joined Pride on stage at the CMAs to perform the veteran’s classic 1971 “Kiss an Angel Good Morning.” After the heartfelt duet, Allen presented his “hero” with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
“So thankful I was able to perform with Charley Pride tonight,” Allen tweeted. “Tonight was really special to me.”
Allen discussed what this opportunity meant to him in a video diary shot ahead of the awards show.
In a separate interview, Allen teared up while talking about the impact Pride and other Black country artists have had on his development.
Joshua Taylor, a “country music enthusiast,” said in a series of tweets: “For those who may not realize how big of an achievement this is: Charley Pride’s early hits were released without an image of him. He first stepped out on stage in Detroit to big applause only for the crowd to fall silent, only then realizing he was Black. The applause returned once he made an opening joke and started singing.”