Maren Morris suggests CMA Awards are to blame for COVID-19 death of country music star Charley Pride

Singer Maren Morris has hit out at the CMA Awards suggesting the indoor event last month could be to blame for the COVID-19 death of country music star Charley Pride.  

Pride, the first black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, died aged 86 on Saturday in Dallas of complications from COVID-19, according to Jeremy Westby of the public relations firm 2911 Media. 

His death came almost exactly one month after he attended the Country Music Association Awards on November 11 at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Singer Maren Morris has hit out at the CMA Awards suggesting the indoor event last month could be to blame for the COVID-19 death of country music star Charley Pride. Pride pictured performing at the CMA Awards

Singer Maren Morris has hit out at the CMA Awards suggesting the indoor event last month could be to blame for the COVID-19 death of country music star Charley Pride. Pride pictured performing at the CMA Awards

Morris, who was also at the awards, tweeted Saturday saying people should be ‘outraged’ if Pride’s death was ‘a result of the CMAs being indoors’. 

‘I don’t want to jump to conclusions because no family statement has been made, but if this was a result of the CMAs being indoors, we should all be outraged. Rest in power, Charley,’ Morris wrote.

‘F** this f**ing year,’ she added. 

Mickey Guyton, another artist who attended the event, replied to her tweet saying: ‘Gurl I thought the same damn thing.’

Guyton also tweeted: ‘We need answers as to how Charley Pride got covid.’ 

The CMA hit back at the suggestion in a statement Saturday where it said all attendees followed strict COVID-19 safety rules and that Pride tested negative ‘multiple times’ before and after attending the event. 

‘Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions,’ the statement read.

‘Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville. He was tested upon landing in Nashville, and again on show day, with all tests coming back negative. 

 

Morris, who was also at the awards, tweeted Saturday about his death suggesting it was 'a result of the CMAs being indoors'

Morris, who was also at the awards, tweeted Saturday about his death suggesting it was ‘a result of the CMAs being indoors’

‘After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times. All of us in the Country Music community are heartbroken by Charley’s passing. 

‘Out of respect for his family during their grieving period, we will not be commenting on this further.’

While many awards ceremonies and large events have gone virtual this year due to the pandemic, the CMA decided to welcome performers, winners and nominees in person, despite infections soaring nationwide.

The event was held indoors and attendees were seen sitting close together at tables not wearing face masks.  

Several stars including Lee Brice pulled out of the show at the last minute after they tested positive for the virus. 

In the lead-up to the event, the CMA addressed concerns about the safety of the ceremony saying it was following CDC protocols and was carrying out rigorous testing of attendees.  

‘Prior to even stepping onto our footprint at MCC, every single person (including artists and their reps) was required to be tested, with many testing repeatedly throughout the week as an extra measure of precaution,’ the CMA said, per ET Online. 

Pride's (above) death came almost exactly one month after he attended the Country Music Association Awards on November 11 in Nashville, Tennessee

Pride’s (above) death came almost exactly one month after he attended the Country Music Association Awards on November 11 in Nashville, Tennessee

At the awards, Pride was honored with The Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award and performed on stage with Jimmy Allen Pride was the first black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. The CMA hit back in a statement Saturday saying all attendees followed strict safety rules and Pride tested negative 'multiple times' after the event

At the awards, Pride was honored with The Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award and performed on stage with Jimmy Allen Pride was the first black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. The CMA hit back in a statement Saturday saying all attendees followed strict safety rules and Pride tested negative ‘multiple times’ after the event

‘Just as with COVID regulations at restaurants, all in attendance are required to wear a mask any time they leave their assigned seat. 

‘Staff and crew are also required to wear PPE at all times and, of course, practice social and physical distancing. Tables are spaced eight feet apart with no more than four people seated per table.’ 

At the awards, Pride was honored with The Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award for ‘an iconic artist who has attained the highest degree of recognition in Country Music.’

He also performed on stage with Jimmy Allen singing ‘Kiss an Angel Good Morning’.

According to a statement on Pride’s Facebook, he was hospitalized in late November with COVID-19 symptoms.

‘Despite the incredible efforts, skill and care of his medical team over the past several weeks, he was unable to overcome the virus,’ the statement read.  

Dolly Parton was among those to pay tribute, tweeting: ‘I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away. 

‘It’s even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you.’  

Pride, pictured in 1975, is remembered as a trail-blazing musician and baseball player

Pride, pictured in 1975, is remembered as a trail-blazing musician and baseball player

Pride, pictured in 2006, died from COVID-19 complications, his PR said

Pride, pictured in 2006, died from COVID-19 complications, his PR said

A son of Mississippi sharecroppers, he played minor league baseball before his musical career

A son of Mississippi sharecroppers, he played minor league baseball before his musical career

Pride released dozens of albums and sold more than 25 million records during a career that began in the mid-1960s. 

Hits besides ‘Kiss an Angel Good Morning’ in 1971 included ‘Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,’ ‘Burgers and Fries,’ ‘Mountain of Love,’ and ‘Someone Loves You Honey.’ 

He had three Grammy Awards, more than 30 No. 1 hits between 1969 and 1984, won the Country Music Association’s Top Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year awards in 1972 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

The Smithsonian in Washington acquired memorabilia from Pride, including a pair of boots and one of his guitars, for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Until the early 1990s, when Cleve Francis came along, Pride was the only black country singer signed to a major label.

In 1993, he joined the Grand Ole Opry cast in Nashville.

Pride receives his Country Music Hall of Fame plaque from Merle Haggard in October 2000

Pride receives his Country Music Hall of Fame plaque from Merle Haggard in October 2000

Pride sings during the Black Tie & Boots ball as part of the Inaugural festivities in January 2013

Pride sings during the Black Tie & Boots ball as part of the Inaugural festivities in January 2013

Pride, pictured on stage in New York in 1975, was the first black man to become a Country star

Pride, pictured on stage in New York in 1975, was the first black man to become a Country star

‘They used to ask me how it feels to be the ‘first colored country singer’,’ he told The Dallas Morning News in 1992. 

Pride pictured in November at the CMAs

Pride pictured in November at the CMAs

‘Then it was ‘first Negro country singer’; then ‘first black country singer.’ 

‘Now I’m the ‘first African-American country singer.’ That’s about the only thing that’s changed. 

‘This country is so race-conscious, so ate-up with colors and pigments. I call it ‘skin hang-ups’ — it’s a disease.’

Pride was raised in Sledge, Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper. He had seven brothers and three sisters.

In 2008 while accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the Mississippi Governor’s Awards for Excellence in the Arts, Pride said he never focused on race.

‘My older sister one time said, ‘Why are you singing THEIR music?’ Pride said. 

‘But we all understand what the y’all-and-us-syndrome has been. See, I never as an individual accepted that, and I truly believe that’s why I am where I am today.’

Pride is pictured with Johnny Cash on The Johnny Cash Show in May 1970

Pride is pictured with Johnny Cash on The Johnny Cash Show in May 1970

Pride and wife Rozene in October 2000 celebrating Garth Brooks' selling 100 million albums

Pride and wife Rozene in October 2000 celebrating Garth Brooks’ selling 100 million albums

As a young man before launching his singing career, he was a pitcher and outfielder in the Negro American League with the Memphis Red Sox and in the Pioneer League in Montana.

After playing minor league baseball a couple of years, he ended up in Helena, Montana, where he worked in a zinc smelting plant by day and played country music in nightclubs at night. 

After a tryout with the New York Mets, he visited Nashville and broke into country music when Chet Atkins, head of RCA Records, heard two of his demo tapes and signed him.

To ensure that Pride was judged on his music and not his race, his first few singles were sent to radio stations without a publicity photo. 

After his identity became known, a few country radio stations refused to play his music.

For the most part, though, Pride said he was well received. Early in his career, he would put white audiences at ease when he joked about his ‘permanent tan.’

‘Music is the greatest communicator on the planet Earth,’ he said in 1992. 

‘Once people heard the sincerity in my voice and heard me project and watched my delivery, it just dissipated any apprehension or bad feeling they might have had.’

Pride sings the National Anthem before the start of Game 5 of the World Series between the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants in November 2010

Pride sings the National Anthem before the start of Game 5 of the World Series between the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants in November 2010

Throughout his career, he sang positive songs instead of sad ones often associated with country music.

‘Music is a beautiful way of expressing oneself and I truly believe music should not be taken as a protest,’ he told The Associated Press in 1985. 

‘You can go too far in anything — singing, acting, whatever — and become politicized to the point you cease to be an entertainer.’

In 1994, he wrote his autobiography, ‘Pride: The Charley Pride Story,’ in which he disclosed he was mildly manic depressive.

He had surgery in 1997 to remove a tumor from his right vocal cord.

He received the Living Legend award from The Nashville Network/Music City News, recognizing 30 years of achievement, in 1997.

‘I’d like to be remembered as a good person who tried to be a good entertainer and made people happy, was a good American who paid his taxes and made a good living,’ he said in 1985. 

‘I tried to do my best and contribute my part.’

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