Trailblazing country music legend and pioneering artist Charley Pride was honored with the RIAA Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) on October 26, 2021 in Nashville, TN. Michele Ballantyne, Chief Operating Officer of the RIAA, was on-hand to present the honor to Charley’s son, Dion Pride, and also to NMAAM for display. Garth Brooks took the stage for a special acoustic performance and Q&A with moderator Alice Randall discussing pride’s impact at the event.
“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,” said Michele Ballantyne. “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.”
The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is the trade organization that supports and promotes the creative and commercial vitality of music labels in the United States, the most vibrant recorded music community in the world.
The evening also included a stirring acoustic performance from Country music icon Garth Brooks of the last song Pride recorded – a duet with Brooks, entitled “Where the Cross Don’t Burn,” written by the late Troy Jones and the late Phil Thomas. Garth interjected performances of acoustic verses of some of Charlie’s biggest hits throughout the Q&A along with some personal favorites becoming emotional during a few of the songs.
For “Where the Cross Don’t Burn,” Brooks traveled to Pride’s studio in Dallas to record the duet, which chronicles the friendship between a young White boy and an older Black man during segregation. The ballad sat with Brooks for 10 years waiting for the right time for this collaboration with Pride to materialize and was finally recorded for his latest album, Fun, which was released in September.
“One of the greatest American Icons is Charley Pride,” said Garth Brooks. “Charley Pride is love.” Charlie Pride passed away on December 12, 2020, at the age of 86, in Dallas, Texas.
In addition to his performance, Brooks sat down with songwriter, author and Vanderbilt University faculty member Alice Randall for a live Q&A, where they discussed Pride’s profound influence on Brooks, the genre of Country music, and their time together recording “Where the Cross Don’t Burn.”
Alice Randall is on the Faculty of Vanderbilt University in the Department of African-American and Diaspora Studies. She has published extensively on Black artists working in country and her courses include “The Country Lyric in American Culture” and “Black Country.” Randall was a consultant on all episodes of Ken Burns documentary Country Music and appears in two. She also appears in the PBS documentary on Charley Pride, I’m Just Me. She has co-written more than twenty recorded songs including “XXX’s and OOO’s” which celebrates Aretha Franklin and Patsy Cline and was recorded by Garth Brooks’ wife Trisha Yearwood.