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Charley Pride: 10 Essential Songs

From his debut single “The Snakes Crawl at Night” to the crossover smash “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’”


From 1966 to the early Eighties, Charley Pride was a country chart stalwart, scoring 29 Number Ones on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart and more than 50 Top Tens in total. With his rich vocals, Pride, who died on Saturday, showed himself to be a master of heartbroken ballads with hits like “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger” and “Just You and Me.” He also enjoyed considerable crossover success with his signature hits “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone” and “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” which propelled him into superstardom at the beginning of the Seventies. As we mourn his death, we look back at 10 essential cuts from the Country Music Hall of Fame member’s remarkable career.

From Rolling Stone US

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“The Snakes Crawl at Night” (1966)

The very first time Charley Pride ever stepped foot inside a recording studio, in August 1965, he cut this cheating song co-written by Mel Tillis and Fred Burch with the legendary producer Cowboy Jack Clement. “I was afraid it was going to sound so bad,” Pride said in 2016. “I was so nervous to go in and do what I did.” Instead, Pride’s classic country vocal performance eventually won over executives at RCA, who released the song as Pride’s first single — without any publicity photo. Despite not becoming a hit at the time, Pride continued to perform “The Snakes Crawl at Night” throughout his career. J.B.

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“Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone” (1970)

One of Pride’s signature tunes was this up-tempo fiddle ode to heartsick hitchhiking. The song become one of his earliest Number One hits in 1970, helping kick off a remarkable run of chart-topping success throughout the decade. From the very first line (“Rain dripping off the brim of my hat”), Pride’s unmistakable baritone added a deep pathos to this lonesome wanderer’s tale. Written by Jack Kirby and Glenn Martin, Pride’s version became the definitive blueprint for the country standard, which would be recorded by everyone from Ray Price and Nancy Sinatra to Tanya Tucker and, most famously, Doug Sahm’s Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornadoes. J.B.

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“(I’m So) Afraid of Losing You Again” (1969)

Pride had a fruitful partnership with songwriters Dallas Frazier and A.L. “Doodle” Owens in the late Sixties and early Seventies that resulted in several Number One hits. Pride’s second was 1969’s “(I’m So) Afraid of Losing You Again,” a heartbreaking ballad about a man paralyzed by lost love. It’s the kind of song Pride was meant to record. “Being close to you revives the sorrow,” he sings. “That wakes me up and tells me I can’t win/I’d love to wake up in your arms tomorrow/But I’m so afraid of losing you again.” The song stayed at Number One for three weeks and spent a total of 15 weeks on the country charts. P.D.

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“Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town” (1974)

Pride recalled his own upbringing in Sledge, Mississippi, for the lead single from his 1974 album Pride of America, evoking the poverty and struggle of life in the rural South, including a subtle reminder of the harsh economic reality blacks experienced within the sharecropping system: “There ain’t a lotta money in a cotton bale/At least when you try to sell,” he sings. Writers Harold Dorman and George Gann filled the song with vivid details, such as the memorable line about going into town to sit on a porch and eat a “dust-covered ice cream” on a hot Saturday night. Pride’s delivery perfectly splits the difference between a tender evocation of home and a stark memory of a world he was happy to have left behind. J.D.

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“Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger” (1967)

One of the more devastating marriage songs in country music, sung with desolation and fear but also a unique amount of empathy: “I understand sometimes we all need time alone,” Pride offers, adding, “But why do you always leave your ring at home?” Pride’s gentle, forlorn delivery brings you inside his pain, adding characteristic gravity to a song that probably would’ve done just fine based on its memorable title alone. Decades later, married songwriting team Buddy and Julie Miller added another dagger twist to the song’s theme with “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger,” which was recorded by Lee Ann Womack in 2001. J.D.

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“All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)” (1969)

Charley Pride made history with this single, written by Dallas Frazier and A.L. “Doodle” Owens, about a man having a conversation with the woman he wants to marry: “There’ll be no mansion waiting on the hill with crystal chandeliers/And there’ll be no fancy clothes for you to wear,” Pride sings, warning her that he is not a rich man. Produced by Jack Clement and Chet Atkins, the song is a perfect example of the late Sixties commercial Nashville Sound, with Pride’s voice soaring over pedal steel and backup vocals. It went to Number One, making Pride the first black artist to top the country charts since Louis Jordan in 1944. It was the first of 29 Number Ones. P.D.

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“Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'” (1971)

Charley Pride’s warm, honey-butter vocals were tailor-made for early Seventies AM pop radio, and everyone finally got a taste of what country fans had been enjoying for a half-decade with the release of this gloriously cheerful and cheeky tune penned by Pride’s fellow Mississippian Ben Peters. After 13 albums and seven Number One country hits, Pride’s eighth chart-topper, from the 1972 Grammy-winning Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs, became his first and only Top 40 pop (and Top 10 AC) entry. But “Kiss” became the singer’s signature tune because it beautifully showcased everything there was to love about his artistry, from his welcoming voice to his eyes-glinting sense of humor. S.B.

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“Just Between You and Me” (1966)

After releasing a couple singles that went nowhere, Pride had his first country Top Ten hit with this heartbroken ode to time’s inability to heal romantic wounds. Producer Jack Clement was concerned about white country audiences responding to a black artist singing a love song, but Pride’s rich vocal and warm, matter-of-fact intimacy sold the song anyway. “I didn’t kick then and I’m not kicking now because I think they had a point,” Pride recalled. “We weren’t even off the ground, but it ended up that all my fans want to hear me sing is love songs.” J.D.

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“Roll on Mississippi” (1981)

The writers of “Roll on Mississippi,” Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan, were from Minnesota and Florida, respectively, but between the two of them and Pride, the trio imbued this 1981 Top Ten hit with gentle waves of nostalgia and wanderlust worthy of a classic Southern novel. Moving along to acoustic guitar and harmonica accompaniment, Pride’s sweet, yearning vocal is a wondrous thing, reaching dreamy high notes and then offering a subtle, yet loving homage to “Ol’ Man River” (both the song and the mighty body of water itself) in the tune’s closing moments. S.B.

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“Mountain of Love” (1981)

In early 1981, 21 years after it was first released by its writer Harold Dorman and nearly seven years after Bruce Springsteen performed it during a handful of shows, Pride topped the country chart for the 26th time with his rousing, bluesy rendition of “Mountain of Love,” also a major hit for Johnny Rivers in the early Sixties. The production may date it a bit but Pride’s impassioned performance gets to the heart of the tune’s prevailing misery as he stands atop the mountain, surveying the city below and noting the church where “wedding bells are ringin’ and they shoulda been ours.” S.B.