Charley Pride, the first African-American to enter the Country Music Hall of Fame, has died aged 86, his website has announced.
Pride, who rose to fame in the 1960s, passed away on Saturday from complications of Covid-19.
While Pride was not the first black singer in country music, he became one of its biggest stars during a period of division in the US.
He won three Grammy Awards, followed by a lifetime achievement award in 2017.
Country star Dolly Parton, who described Pride as “one of my dearest and oldest friends, said she was “heartbroken” at the news of his death.
I’m so heartbroken that one of my dearest and oldest friends, Charley Pride, has passed away. It’s even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus. Charley, we will always love you. (1/2)
— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) December 12, 2020
The son of a sharecropper on a cotton farm in Mississippi, Pride was born in 1934 and served in the army, played baseball and worked in a smelting plant before later turning to music.
Fifty-two of his songs reached the country Top 10, including the hits All I Have to Offer You (Is Me) and Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’.
“We’re not colour-blind yet, but we’ve advanced a few paces along the path and I like to think I’ve contributed something to that process,” he wrote in his memoir.
Pride was awarded the Country Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Nashville, Tennessee, on 11 November, in what would be his last public performance.
Fellow singers have paid tribute, with Reba McEntire writing: “Charley Pride will always be a legend in Country music.”
Billy Ray Cyrus, meanwhile, calling Pride a “gentleman… legend and true trail blazer”, adding: “He took down walls and barriers meant to divide.”