‘It Feels Like Superman Died': Jimmie Allen on the Death of Charley Pride
Since Charley Pride's death on Saturday (Dec. 12), artists from all corners of the country genre have voiced their remembrances of the legendary, groundbreaking singer and tributed his lasting legacy. Reba McEntire, Darius Rucker, Loretta Lynn and Brad Paisley are just a few of the stars who've expressed their grief at Pride's passing and reflected on how he impacted their careers and the genre as a whole.
Especially among country's younger generation, however, no one has had a more special connection to Pride than Jimmie Allen. It was Allen who presented Pride with his Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2020 CMA Awards in November, and who tapped the legendary star to duet with him on his new EP, Bettie James. Allen has long been vocal about Pride's influence, particularly as someone who taught him that it was possible to break into the genre's mainstream as a Black performer.
In the wake of Pride's death, Allen posted a lengthy, emotional video tribute to his hero. In it, he recounted his earliest memories of listening to Pride's music, detailing how his relationship with the legend evolved into a mentorship and friendship in recent years. The young singer first learned about Pride's music from his dad, he explains, when he was first starting to consider a career in country music.
"When I heard him, it was like, 'Alright, cool. He's got a good voice, dad. I like his voice.' He said, 'You need to see what he looks like,'" Allen remembers. "And he showed me his picture, and I was like, 'Whoa, okay. Alright. I get it now.' And you know, that really showed me that it doesn't matter what people might think you can't do because of the color of your skin. There was finally someone that looked like me in every genre."
Pride came to Nashville and signed his first label deal with RCA in 1966, during a volatile decade for the civil rights movement. He was met with criticism and outright antagonism for being a Black artist, and Allen goes on to say that once they got to know each other, Pride told him powerful stories about the racism he encountered during that time.
"It showed his courage. It showed his love and his passion for music," Allen says. "... I don't know if there could be that many people that could step into his shoes at a time when a lot of people in this country view people that look like you as beneath them ... I don't know if I could've done it, honestly."
The singer then traced how his relationship with Pride had evolved over the years, explaining that he went from being "a hero to a friend someone that became like a grandfather to me," noting the country star's humor, storytelling power and ability to truly listen to the people that he spoke with.
Allen adds that Pride always made a point of keeping up with rising Black country artists. He followed Kane Brown and Mickey Guyton's careers with interest, and Allen turned him on to others like Breland, Tiera and Willie Jones.
"We just talked about the list of artists that he has inspired, and it's just so many people," Allen reflects.
"The world is gonna miss him. I'm gonna miss him. His family's missing him. I'm keeping Rozene and his kids in my prayers all the time. I can't imagine spending 60+ years with someone and them just being taken away from you," the singer continues, with emotion in his voice. "But people who didn't know about Charley Pride, or who he was and what he did, I hope they get to know him: through his music, through his life."
Even beyond his death, Allen points out, Pride's legacy has lasting lessons for everyone. "We definitely lost a legend, man. For me, it feels like Superman died," he says. "But Charley, love you, miss you, and thanks for everything you've done."
He ended his tribute with a clip from the 2020 CMAs of himself and Pride performing Pride's 1971 chart-topping hit, "Kiss an Angel Good Morning." It was Pride's last performance and took place on Nov. 11, nearly a month to the day before his death.
Pride died of complications of COVID-19 after being hospitalized since late November. He was 86 years old.