By Valerie Milano
He began as a humble sharecropper's son, and rose to become a celebrated Negro American League baseball player, and then a trailblazing country music star. Now, PBS is telling his story in a highly anticipated documentary film narrated by Tanya Tucker.
Pride himself spoke about his life, career, and the new film at a Television Critics Association panel, ahead of its release February 22ndth, in honor of Black History month. It was moderated by Michael Kantor, executive producer of the American Masters Series.
"The best I can explain real shortly is that I was blessed with a voice that I'm so glad that I was blessed with," said Pride. "And that people liked it so much and they still do even at this time all while I've been in it this long."
Pride talked about the unlikely aspects of his transition from sports to the music industry.
"My thing was that I was going to go to the Major Leagues and break all of the records that had been set by the time I was 35 or 36 years old," he explained. "That was what I was going to do and make my mark in this world."
But, he says, his family had a Philco radio, and he listened to Grand Ole Opry "275 miles away." He ended up settling on emulating Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff. He wound eventually in a recording studio. "I said, "I want to go into the studio and make the best records I can make, go out on stage and do them the best I can, and then I'll do them better than that, really."
Pride described his career ascension as "just like a stepladder."
"People say, "Well, you are a legend." I didn't like to hear that because I thought legends, you are already dead and have gone up there, you know. He said, "No. You are a living legend." I said, "Okay. Then I can take a little back. I'll accept it, then."
Pride has an element of both humility, and, well...pride. Pride for truly great accomplishments. The documentary does an elegant job of weaving the influences throughout his life, together with the separate entity that is his multi-faceted career.
Rare photos, videos, and interviews with Pride lay out an extraordinary story about a man who started out ordinary-and who built the artistic portion of his career singing about the ordinary aspects of life.
It's an excellent example of what the American Masters series is all about. Expertly directed by Barbara J. Hall as both an accessible and inspiring tale of organic American success, it shouldn't be missed.
Premieres Friday, Feb. 22nd at 9 PM on PBS (check local listings). Streams Saturday, Feb 23
PBS.org/americanmasters and PBS apps.