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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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“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.