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COVID Claims Two More Lives of Prominent Entertainers

Charley Frank Pride, Thomas “Tiny” Lister
COVID Claims Two More Lives of Prominent Entertainers

The grim reaper, now known in many circles as the COVID-19 virus last week claimed the lives of two prominent Americans-an actor-pro wrestler and a pioneer Country and Western performing sensation.

At Inquirer press time, homegoing services (if any) had not been announced by the families of Charley Pride or Thomas “Tiny” Lister. Much like the demises of notables like John Lewis, C. T. Vivian, and other of the 300,000 victims (and the deaths keep on comin’), the presence of the COVID-19 virus will likely curtail the kind of homegoings they all deserve to have.

Actor, Wrestler, Entertainer Thomas “Tiny” Lister
June 24, 1958 – December 10, 2020

Thomas Lister, Jr., not only known as Tommy (from his days as a record -setting NCAA shot-putter in college), but as “Tiny” (a tease for his 6-foot 5-inch, 300-pound frame), “Zeus” (as a three-federation professional wrestler) and “Deebo” from the 1995 flick “Friday” and the sequel “Next Friday,” had reportedly tested positive for COVID four months ago but showed some definite signs these last few weeks and especially during a December 4th, 13-minute interview with Brandon Jay on the cable channel TMZ. Amid a lot of coughing, He told Jay he was looking forward to be among the first to take the COVID vaccine. “I’m taking the virus,” he said. “I’m gonna take this virus. I got more work to do. It’s a wrap.”

Six days later, he was discovered unresponsive at his apartment in Los Angeles.

Since breaking into cinema and the wrestling mat, the native of Compton, California has landed roles which earned him 220 movie credits, 100 TV appearances and at least 14 parts in music videos.

In the late 1980s, Lister announced he’d become a born-again Christian. Born with a bad eye, he once cursed it but then had a turn-around in attitude, according to a quote from, “I started doing these movies and God said, ‘You thought it was a curse. It was a blessing.’ My eye became my trademark in Hollywood.”

Charley Frank Pride – “Jackie Robinson of Country Music”
March 18, 1934 – December 12, 2020

“Pride, whose rich baritone voice and impeccable song-sense altered American culture, died Saturday, December 12, 2020 in Dallas, Texas of complications from COVID-19 at age 86.”

Those words came from a statement on Pride’s website: The site added that the Sledge, Mississippi native, husband to one wife of 64 years and father of three was “unable to overcome” the virus. It led to speculation that he might have picked it up while attending the Country Music Association (CMA) awards where he achieved the Willie Nelson Lifetime achievement honor. The speculation was fueled by the Association’s holding the CMA inside Nashville, Tennessee’s Music City Center. Oddly, the ceremonies were moved this year from the city’s Bridgestone Arena where they’d been held since 2006. CMA officials responded that Pride checked out negative three times before the performance and that every effort was made to ensure the safety of all participants.

Pride’s initial ambition was playing professional baseball and he did that through both the Negro leagues via the Memphis Red Sox and the New York Yankee farm system. He also tried out with the New York Mets and the California Angels but an injury to his throwing arm (he was a pitcher) early-on contributed to his failure to connect to either ball club. (there was a happy ending to his foray in the so-called great American pastime. In 2008, he and 28 former forgotten Negro League players were “adopted” by each of the 30 major league clubs to honor their contributions to the sport. Pride was picked up by the Texas Rangers, a team he eventually would own a part of.)

In media interviews, Pride often talked about the influence his father Mack had on him through his love for the radio broadcast “The Grand Ole Opry” and started Pride, strumming the guitar he taught himself to play, then singing and recording. A third try at connecting with a single got him some attention in 1967 and led to his first appearance before a large audience. Since many Country and Western (C&W) fans had never seen Pride in person (a deliberate move by Pride’s manager), the reaction of the 10,000 concertgoers at Detroit Michigan’s Olympia Stadium was predictable. He reportedly told a reporter many years later about the predominately white crowd’s mood change from thunderous applause to complete silence. “I told the audience, friends I realize it’s a little unique, me coming out here – with a permanent suntan – to sing country and western to you. But that’s the way it is.”

Pride soon won over the crowds with his twangy baritone voice and that 1967 event led to his becoming a sensation for three decades and the second best-selling artist for RCA records behind the so-called “King of Rock and Roll” Elvis Presley (he was from Mississippi, too). His presence in what was once a totally white-dominated audience demographic has encouraged more than a handful of Black male and female singers to try C&W. In fact, during his appearance at the CMA awards, Pride did a duet of “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” with an African-American C&W up-and-comer Jimmy Allen, who presented Pride with his lifetime achievement. “Four years ago, before getting any kind of record deal, I spent my last $100 coming to the CMA awards to hear Mr. Pride,” he said during a news conference after the presentation. “Now, four years later, I’m on stage with him presenting this award to him and singing with him. This is one of my biggest dreams and it happened.”

In a tweet, Allen has lashed out over the lack of response from many C&W performers over Pride’s death. “What’s bothering me is, I’ve seen so many country artists make post about other country artists and legends we have lost last few years, but some of them have said nothing about the legend, trailblazer, Opry member, ACM, CMA, Grammy winner, Country Hall of Fame icon Charley Pride.”

Last updated on December 23, 2020

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