Garth Brooks, who was friends with Charley Pride for more than 25 years, is remembering working with the legend in one of Pride’s final times in the studio before his death Saturday (Dec. 12) from COVID-19 complications.
Pride and Brooks recorded “Where the Cross Don’t Burn” in September for Brooks’ Fun album, which came out in November. Brooks traveled to Pride’s studio in Dallas to record the duet, which chronicles the friendship between a young white boy and an older Black man during segregation. Brooks had held onto the song for 10 years wanting to record it with Pride.
Pride was in fine form as he recorded his part, Brooks tells Billboard, and was a perfectionist. “It was great,” he says of their time in the studio. “He’s stubborn, and that’s a blessing and a curse. He would not let this melody go. He kept going after it until he got it right. I was very appreciative of the work that he puts into it when he’s in the studio.”
Moreover, Brooks was in awe of Pride’s role in country music as the first Black superstar and what Pride had to endure breaking into the format in the late ‘60s. “If I had to come up with one word to describe him, it would be ‘courage,’” Brooks says. “Every country singer in this business has a similar story. Not him. His story had to be one of stuff I couldn’t even fathom.”
Pride’s role was bigger than his enormous musical contributions, Brooks continues. “What he did for all of us was educate us that color doesn’t matter. This is country music, my God, and he still showed us that he could be the best at it.”
Following Pride’s passing, Brooks’ thoughts are with Rozene, Pride’s wife of more than 60 years. “You never saw Charley without her. She was in the studio with him. She was the one if you want to say something to Charley and you’re going, ‘Shit, he’s a god, I can’t say that,” Rozene was like, ‘I’ll tell him,’” he recalls with a laugh. “All my love to her.”
Brooks added that he and Pride had planned to go back in the studio in early 2021 for a project Pride was working on, which sadly will now not happen.