The Country superstar indeed has a trailblazing life and career. Even though it came to an unfortunate end on December 12, 2020, Charley Pride songs will live forever.
Ever since his career skyrocketed in 1966, Pride quickly became a country chart stalwart. He managed to score twenty-nine No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and more than fifty Top 10 in total. He also enjoyed considerable crossover success with his signature hits.
As we mourn for Pride’s death, let’s look back at ten essential cuts from the Country Music Hall of Fame member’s incredible career.
10. “You’re My Jamaica”
From: You’re My Jamaica (1979)
When Jimmy Buffett made country songs about island getaways the norm, Pride did his best to channel the inner Buffet in him with “You’re My Jamaica.” The island-life love song is filled with steel drums and beachside swagger. Strings fill out an arrangement that is more progressive than most of his other hits.
Of course, like so many songs on this Pride songs list, it reached No. 1 and spent a total of ten weeks on the country chart.
9. “Mountain of Love”
From: Everybody’s Choice (1981)
In early 1981, over a decade after “Mountain of Love” was first released by its writer Harold Dorman and almost seven years after Bruce Springsteen performed it in several shows, Pride once again topped the country chart with his rousing, bluesy rendition of the song.
The production may date it a bit, but the passionate performance of Pride managed to get to the heart of the song’s prevailing misery as he stood on top the mountain, surveying the city below and noting the church where “wedding bells are ringin’, and they shoulda been ours.”
8. “The Snakes Crawl at Night”
From: Country (1966)
The very first time Pride ever stepped foot inside a recording studio in 1965, he cut this cheating song penned by Mel Tillis with Fred Burch and the legendary producer Cowboy Jack Clement.
Over five decades after, Pride admitted he “was afraid it was going to sound so bad. I was so nervous to go in and do what I did.”
However, Pride’s classic country vocal performance eventually won over the RCA executives, who then released the song as Pride’s first single. Despite not becoming a hit at the time, Pride continued to perform the song throughout his career.
7. “Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town”
From: Pride of America (1974)
If you noticed how modern country music loves to romanticize small-towns rooting for its champions, here was Pride’s expert description of the kind of deprivation the country music saved him from: “Down in the delta where I was born, all we raised was cotton, potatoes, and corn. I’ve picked cotton ’til my fingers hurt.”
His voice spared pointless preaching – Pride just let the picture tell his tale.
6. “Crystal Chandeliers”
From: The Country Way (1967)
Pride has so much bigger hits than this song, but “Crystal Chandeliers” is undoubtedly one of his most beloved ones– especially in Belfast, Ireland.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, this is because the country icon performed in the city in 1976 when Belfast was roiled by political unrest. The performance paved the way for other musicians to come to the town. “That was a significant release for me,” Pride said. “I knew in my heart, ‘Chandeliers’ would be a hit.”
5. “It’s Gonna Take a Little Bit Longer”
From: A Sunshine Day With Charley Pride (1972)
Pride recorded more than a dozen songs penned by Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Ben Peters — this includes “It’s Gonna Take a Little Bit Longer.
Highlighted by twangy guitars and by jaunty pedal steel, the song tells the tale of a man who realizes he’s still hung up on a former lover but is being careful with his heart and not rushing to get things over. It spent three weeks at No. 1 on the country charts.
4. “(I’m So) Afraid of Losing You Again”
From: Just Plain Charley (1970)
His love ballads established Pride as a voice to depend on, most especially when the ’60s turned over to a new decade.
A song co-written by Dallas Frazier, this easy country swing tells a tale of a man tortured by the thought of unrequited love. It quickly reached No. 1 on the country charts and held that position for three weeks. It spent a total of fifteen weeks on the said charts.
Moreover, the song also helped Pride earn a CMA Single of the Year nomination in 1970.
3. “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)”
From: The Best of Charley Pride (1969)
Charley Pride croons of a proposal turned into a warning in this chart-topper as the man in the song tells his future wife that if she chose to be with him forever, she wouldn’t be able to live a luxurious life every girl dreams about. After all, “all I have to offer you is me.”
This is such a notable song as it marked the first time a Black musician had topped the country charts since 1944.
2. “Just Between You and Me”
From: The Pride of Country Music (1967)
After Pride released a couple of singles that went nowhere, the singer had once again enjoyed a country Top Ten hit with this heartbroken ode to time’s lack of ability to heal romantic wounds.
Jack Clement, singer-songwriter and producer, was concerned about white country audiences responding to a black artist singing a love song. Still, Pride’s rich vocal and warm, matter-of-fact intimacy sold the song anyway. “I didn’t kick then, and I’m not kicking now because I think they had a point,” he recalled. “We weren’t even off the ground, but it ended up that all my fans want to hear me sing is love songs.”
1. “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin“
From: Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs (1971)
Among Pride’s fifty-two Top 10 country hits, “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'” is his highest-charting pop crossover song. After reaching No. 1 on the country charts, the playful song then peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The secret to the song’s success is pretty simple: the lyrics reveal the secret to a happy life — that would be treating a woman right, so you have a loving relationship — and music that combined instrumentation such as perky fiddle and jaunty piano. Pride ties it all together with an understated vocal that exudes hard-earned wisdom: It’s the voice of a happy and satisfied man who knows exactly which he sings.
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