The Untold Truth Of Charlie Daniels

On Monday, July 6th, 2020, publicist Don Murray Grubs confirmed that Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Charlie Daniels had passed away at the age of 83, having suffered a severe hemorrhagic stroke.

Born October 28th, 1936 in Wilmington, North Carolina, Daniels was a staple of the country music community, having enjoyed a career that spanned more than five decades. Medium reports that he spent nearly 12 years in a bar band called Jaguar, with early novelty tracks like "Robot Romp." Later moving on to work as a session musician, his early gigs included contributions to albums by Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. In 1964, "It Hurts Me," a song co-written by Daniels and music producer Bob Johnston, was released as an Elvis Presley single. Daniels himself wouldn't receive national attention until 1973 with the release of his third album, Honey In The Rock. The record's breakout hit, a novelty number called "Uneasy Rider," cracked the Billboard Hot 100, topping out at number nine.

But the accomplishment that brought Daniels directly into the international spotlight came in 1979. That's when The Charlie Daniels Band released "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," the now-ubiquitous country foot-tapper that peaked at number three, somehow, at the same time that "My Sharona" was topping the charts.

The surprise success of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" brought Daniels worldwide fame, charting in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., New Zealand, and even the Netherlands.

Daniels and the devil

A decade after its release, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" was certified platinum, with over one million verified records sold, according to the RIAA. Its colorful narrative and undeniable beat made the song an easy target for covers, parodies, and reimaginings. Bands running the gamut of genres from Primus to Michelle Lambert have performed renditions of the tune, substituting fiddles for harmonicas, electric guitars, and in at least one case, gold turntables.

Notably, the song was covered by Steve Ouimette for 2007's Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. As part of the level, the player is tasked with beating a CGI devil in a rock off, which Charlie Daniels took exception to due to the fact that it was possible for the devil to win. Initially calling the inclusion of the song "kind of amazing" and describing his excitement at the prospect of "a whole new generation of kids (...) discovering it" in an interview with News-Press, Daniels would later loudly express his distaste with its presentation. In a statement on the musician's blog, later reported on by Stereo Gum, Daniels said "I would never grant permission for some company to create a video game version of a song I wrote in which the devil wins a contest ... I'm sorely disappointed with the company who owns the copyright for not policing the situation. As it is they have allowed these people to violate the very essence of the song."

Charlie Daniels' later years

Charlie Daniels was never shy about sharing his opinions on matters personal or political. Atypically, the decidedly country-strong singer eschewed political uniformity. When his song, "The South's Gonna Do It Again," became an advertising staple for a Louisiana chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in 1975, Daniels made the bold choice of speaking out publicly against the group, stating "I'm damn proud of the South, but I sure as hell am not proud of the Ku Klux Klan. I wrote the song about the land I love and my brothers." In 1976, he shared public support for Jimmy Carter's presidential run, and Carter helped to revive the public image of "The South's Gonna Do It Again" by utilizing it as his campaign song. Daniels performed at Carter's inauguration the following year, and later stated in Mark Kemp's "Dixie Lullaby" that Carter was "the most honorable man to hold the office of president of the United States of America in my lifetime."

In his later years, Daniels' political leanings skewed more to the right. His 1980 single "In America" found new life as a boot-stomping patriotic anthem after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and his support of President George W. Bush was pronounced throughout the 2000s. His blog, Charlie Daniels' Soap Box, found an audience with early writings with titles like "An Open Letter To The Hollywood Bunch" before taking a sharp right turn with additions such as "A New World Order," in which he posited that the antichrist was the Islamic Mahdi and that Western civilization was being overrun by Muslims.

According to the Tennessean, Daniels is survived by his wife Hazel and his son, Charlie Daniels Jr.