D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: Happy Birthday, Charley Pride

A salute to the under-appreciated country music legend.

Today is Charley Pride’s 76th birthday. The legendary singer is still touring regularly; he’ll be making a swing through Canada soon. He’s still working out each spring in Arizona with the Texas Rangers, a team he became a part owner of when the Nolan Ryan-led group purchased the club in 2010. And he still hasn’t gotten the same level of recognition as some of his country music contemporaries, nor as much love as he maybe deserves. He’s seen the film adaptation of his life story, originally announced in 2006 with Oscar-nominated actor Terence Howard attached, get stuck in years of “development,” with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson taking over the starring role (if it ever gets made).

When Pride’s 70th birthday came and went without a reissue of one of his classic albums or a handsomely packaged anthology of his greatest hits, our own Zac Crain was incensed enough by the music industry’s lack of an observance of the milestone in Pride’s life that he decided to write what became the lovingly observed profile published in the June 2008 issue of D Magazine. It’s one of the 40 greatest stories we’ve ever published. You really need to read the whole thing.

Confession: I’d never knowingly heard a Charley Pride song (not counting the national anthem at a Rangers game) until a few days ago. So I asked Zac to pick out Pride’s five best/most significant songs. Below you’ll find his recommendations. Listen while you read Zac’s story:

“Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'” — Probably the song most associated with Charley Pride, and he knows it, since it was his ringtone when I wrote the story.

“All I Have To Offer You (Is Me)” — His first No. 1 country hit, in 1969. His last — “Every Heart Should Have One” — came in 1984.

“Lovesick Blues” — Charley’s cover of the Hank Williams classic, at a show in Helena, Montana, earned him a trip to Nashville.

“A Shoulder to Cry On” — Charley stood up in the audience at a Lake Tahoe concert and asked Merle Haggard if he could have this freshly written song. His version is the definitive one, even though Haggard recorded his own.

“The Snakes Crawl At Night” — His first single, released without an accompanying publicity photo. Most people learned he was black only when he started touring.