It didn’t take long after news broke Saturday that legendary country musician Charley Pride died of complications from COVID-19 for musicians and industry professionals to speculate whether he contracted the virus at the Country Music Association Awards (CMAs), which took place on Nov. 11 in person though socially distant. Among those to posit such a connection was Maren Morris, who tweeted, “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.”
Brandi Carlile, in response to Morris’ tweet, also weighed in, writing, “Honestly you’re right to acknowledge what everyone is wondering & as usual YOU have a lot to lose for asking the question. Thank you for being human. Whether that was the place he got it or not- they endangered him & it easily could have been. It’s quietly bothered me for weeks.”
In response, the CMAs and representatives of Charley Pride issued a statement detailing the COVID protocols put in place for the awards show, which honored Pride with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Music City Center in Nashville (Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker hosted).
“Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions,” the official statement began. “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. 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.”
Pride, the first modern Black superstar of country music, was 86. He died on Dec. 12 in Dallas, Texas.
At the CMAs, Pride had performed a duet of his classic “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” with Jimmie Allen, a rising Black star in country who expressed his indebtedness to his predecessor. Pride followed that with a lengthy and heartfelt speech as the small audience of nominees and their guests stood in rapt attention.