The late Charley Pride was honored with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday evening (Oct. 25) at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tenn.
Pride’s longtime friend and fellow country superstar Garth Brooks was on hand to present the honor to Pride’s son, Dion, who accepted the plaque on his father’s behalf.
Brooks was joined by songwriter, author and Vanderbilt University faculty member, Alice Randall, for a Q&A session where he discussed Pride’s impact on the country music genre and shared personal stories and memories from their decades-long friendship.
“We always sat together in the Hall of Fame inductions. I don’t know why, but they always paired us, so I got to sit next to Charley freaking Pride in a house where he belonged, and I didn’t,” Brooks recalled. “I’m the new guy right? This guy is an icon, and he would just reach over, he always touched ya, always poked ya, touched ya, and in between the singers… he’d reach over and poke me.”
Brooks said that after Pride would poke him, he would always sing the opening line of “That Summer” and remembered how it always brought a smile to his face.
Admitting that Pride’s kind gesture made him feel “more comfortable” in the situation, Brooks shared that he always felt like he was talking to a “brother” or an “uncle” when he was visiting with the late country music icon.
After sharing acoustic snippets of some of his favorite Charley Pride songs, Brooks told the story behind “Where the Cross Don’t Burn,” his duet with Pride that appears on his latest album, Fun. The ballad chronicles the relationship between a young White boy and an older Black gentleman during the time of segregation. Brooks held onto the song for a decade before asking Pride to sing on it with him.
“What I love about that song is it starts out as a white boy and a black old man and by the time you get to the end, it’s a young boy and a kind old man,” Brooks shared. “It’s my favorite thing. It’s the evolution or the progression of love. Where love gets you past the differences and focuses on what you have in common.”
Before presenting Dion with the RIAA plaque, Brooks shared his hope for continuing Pride’s legacy within country music.
“Charley Pride was love,” Brooks declared.
He later added, “So the best way that all of us can take Charley Pride’s name forward is to love one another. That was his thing.”
When accepting the RIAA Lifetime Achievement Award, Dion Pride remember his father and his appreciation for the genre.
“We’re all very, very proud of my father’s accomplishments, but for me, as a son, for all his accomplishments, of course all his accomplishments are really to me a by-product of the sheer love that he had, as Garth said, for country music,” he said.
Michele Ballantyne, Chief Operating Officer of the RIAA, was also on-hand to present the honor to Dion as well as to the National Museum of African American Music for display.
“Charley Pride was an all-time great who opened doors and challenged us all to think harder about what makes country music – and all music – great,” she shared. “We are so grateful to the National Museum of African American Music and the legendary Garth Brooks for coming together to present Charley’s family with his RIAA Lifetime Achievement Award. As a Black woman who loves country music, it was a privilege to be part of this incredible moment.”
Charley Pride passed away on December 12, 2020, at the age of 86. The Country Music Hall of Fame member celebrated 50 years as a recording artist, selling tens of millions of records throughout his career and charting 35 No.1 country singles. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry, a three-time GRAMMY winner and Recording Academy “Lifetime Achievement Award” winner. Additionally, he earned the title of the Country Music Association’s “Entertainer of the Year” award in 1971 and the “Top Male Vocalist” awards of 1971 and 1972.