by Howard Campbell
[DALLAS] – In 1979 when RCA Records released Charley Pride’s You’re My Jamaica, the song’s island/reggae feel made it a novelty on country radio in the United States. It became an instant hit in Jamaica where the trailblazing singer had a following since early that decade.
Pride, who became the first black artist to dominate country music charts with hits like Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’, died at age 86 in Dallas, Texas on December 12.
The cause of death was complications from the Coronavirus.
A top player in baseball’s famed Negro Leagues before entering music, Pride performed at the Grand Ole Opry in 1967 when the Civil Rights Movement raged in the US. Blacks had no place in country music which had its audience in the South, a region that was still largely segregated.
But in Jamaica where radio had no color barriers, the songs of Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins and Skeeter Davis were played regularly. When Charley Pride came along, his songs were embraced in the Caribbean country.
This year, the song was covered by Shav-A, another Jamaican artist.
Lodge’s version was produced by Willie Lindo, best known in South Florida as head of Heavy Beat Records.
He recalls it was the London-born Lodge who decided to record the song. Because she was unknown, there was a reluctance to work with her, but when the musicians finally did they knew it was a winner.
“Once yuh heard her yuh knew she was a good singer. It was she who picked the song and executed it well,” he said.
Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’, Pride’s signature song, was covered by reggae singers Delroy Wilson and Ken Parker.
Charley Pride received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Country Music Association in November at its annual ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee.