Garth Brooks honors Charley Pride: 'The guy was a unifier before unifiers were thought of'
Country music icon Garth Brooks teamed with the RIAA to honor genre legend Charley Pride this week with the RIAA Lifetime Achievement Award during a ceremony at the National Museum of African American Music.
Brooks and the RIAA's Michele Ballantyne presented a commemorative plaque to Pride's son Dion Pride and the National Museum of African American Music for display.
"We're all very, very proud of my father's accomplishments," Dion Pride said. "But for me as his son, all of his accomplishments are a sheer by-product of the love he had for country music. He just loved what he did. I'm more impressed with the man. My father was a great, great man, and all of his values and all of his principles will live, and they will live through me."
Before the presentation, Brooks explained why Pride was a meaningful force in his life and country music.
Brooks' beloved mother, Colleen, was a huge Pride fan. The singer said his earliest memories of Pride are of his mom listening to his signature hit "Kiss an Angel Good Morning." Brooks remembers grabbing a hairbrush and pretending it was a microphone so he could sing Pride's "Mountain of Love."
As an adult and the top-selling solo artist of all time, Brooks now knows that Pride is more than the hit songs that carry his name.
"What makes something special is also what people attack," Brooks told CMT. "The fact Charley Pride was black didn't matter. The fact Charley Pride was black mattered everything. It depends on which category you're talking about. It applies to all the good things. Where it shouldn't have mattered, it did. Where it should have mattered, it did. It's a beautiful thing."
Brooks did an on-stage interview with Vanderbilt University faculty member Alice Randall about Pride's influence on Brooks and country music as part of the event.
"This guy was a unifier before unifiers were thought of," Brooks said. "He seemed to be the same guy he was off stage that he was on stage. That said, you put that man on stage, and he's electric."
Brooks and Pride teamed for a duet on "Where the Cross Don't Burn" for Brooks' "Fun" album, released in 2020. Brooks had the song in his pocket for a decade before he read that Pride had passed away. He was devastated that he lost his chance to record with his childhood hero. The next day, Brooks found out the rumor wasn't true and reached out to Pride immediately.
"I got to sit in the studio and hear him sing this song," Brooks said. "It was cool because it brings back all those things from when I was a kid. He had the most important voice."
Brooks performed the song for the intimate audience and then explained: "What I love about that song is that it starts out as a white boy and a black old man. By the time you get to the end, it's just a boy and a kind old man. It's my favorite thing. It's the progression of love where love gets you past the differences and focuses on what you have in common."