It was hard watching baseball the other day when every player was wearing jersey number 42, in honor of Jackie Robinson's historic major league debut 62 seasons ago. A cool tribute, but without players' names to follow it became a little tough on casual fans.
No. 42 winds up and delivers ... No. 42 drives a ball to center field, glancing off No. 42's outreached glove, allowing Nos. 42 and 42 to score! No. 42 is standing at second with a double, and coming to the plate is ... No. 42!
And it made me wonder: What have we done lately for Charlie Pride? When we hear about someone "breaking the color barrier'' how can we forget about our most successful black country & western performer? Pride himself was a promising Negro League player in the Fifties who did a tour of duty in the Army before eventually breaking into the lily-white country music industry in 1966.
What followed is hard to fathom. Pride had a stretch of 13 No. 1 songs in 1969-73 that helped him win CMA Entertainer of the year in 1971 and Male Vocalist in 1971-72. Included in that stretch was "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone'' which was perched at No. 1 on this date in 1970.
Rain dripping off the brim of my hat
It sure is cold today
Here I am walking down sixty-six
Wish she hadn't done me that way
Between 1966-89 Pride had 29 No. 1 songs -- more than Eddie Arnold, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Eddie Arnold or Willie Nelson. He became the first black regular in the Grand Ole Opry, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and received a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Not bad for the son of a sharecropper from Sledge, Miss.
Wind whipping down the neck of my shirt
Like I ain't got nothing on
But I'd rather fight the wind and rain
Than what I've been fighting at home
Pride's distinctive baritone could turn any song into a gritty journey of self-awakening. Yes, things could sound mighty bleak listening to him wail with a fiddle screeching in the background...
Is anybody goin' to San Antone
Or Phoenix Arizona
Any place is alright as long as I
Can forget I've ever known her
There's no forgetting Charlie Pride. But what have we done for him lately?