In Memoriam: Charlie Daniels (1936-2020)

Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Daniels has passed away at the age of 83, from complications related to a stroke.

The Tennessean reports:

Charlie Daniels, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame best known for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” died Monday morning after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. He was 83.

Daniels’ death was confirmed by his publicist, Don Murry Grubbs. He is survived by his wife, Hazel, and son Charlie Daniels Jr.

By the time the Charlie Daniels Band topped the charts with “Devil” in 1979, the instrumentalist, singer and songwriter had long established a remarkable, multifaceted career in Music City. As a session musician, he played on three of Bob Dylan’s albums – including the revolutionary “Nashville Skyline” – as well as recordings for Ringo Starr and Leonard Cohen.

At the other end of that 60-plus year career, Daniels used more of his voice in support of U.S. veterans, and was known to speak out on their behalf on social media until his final days.

In 1974, he launched the first “Volunteer Jam,” a regular all-star concert that has continued for nearly 50 years. Daniels joined the Grand Ole Opry in 2008, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

Way back in 2012, Charlie Daniels was ranked at #61 on our list of Country Music’s 100 Greatest Men:

A cornerstone of country, southern rock, and gospel music, Charlie Daniels and his fiddle have made an indelible impact on the fabric of American music.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Daniels first achieved notoriety through his astonishing fiddling talent.  Since he was also efficient with a guitar, he started off by assembling the instrumental band the Jaguars.  They played throughout the late fifties and early sixties, and were signed to Epic Records for a period of time.   While the band was slowly fizzling out, Daniels got his first taste of real success as a songwriter and a backing musician.  Elvis Presley recorded his composition, “It Hurts Me”, in 1963. By the end of the sixties, Daniels had played on the seminal Bob Dylan album Nashville Skyline, and toured with Leonard Cohen.

His recording career entered full stride in the seventies. After a self-titled solo album in 1970, Daniels expanded his act into the Charlie Daniels Band.  In this incarnation, Daniels would enjoy his greatest notoriety as a singer, songwriter, and performer.   By deftly tackling societal issues from a fiercely Southern perspective, Daniels added powerful and remarkably effective social commentary to his songs, surrounding his worldview with scorching fiddle.

A series of classic singles like “Uneasy Rider”, “The South’s Gonna Do It”, and “Long Haired Country Boy” firmly established Charlie Daniels and his band as a force to be reckoned with.  After a series of critically acclaimed albums that sold well, the band reached its peak of mainstream success in 1979, with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”  It became Daniels’ biggest hit on both the country and the pop charts, and powered Million Mile Reflections to sales of over three million in the United States alone.

Daniels and his band coasted on their success throughout the eighties, touring extensively and continuing to score country hits, along with the occasional pop crossover.  Some of his most high-profile hits remained political in nature, most notably “Still in Saigon”, his remarkable attempt to shed light on the Vietnam War veterans struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.   In 1989, he had his last major commercial success with the band’s album, Simple Man.  Though the title track just missed the country top ten, the vigilante hit received wide media exposure, and pushed sales of the album to platinum status.

For the past two decades, Daniels has remained a widely popular draw on the road, and a widely respected media star, appearing regularly on political talk shows to share his views on issues of the day.  Always a fan of gospel music, he’s released several spiritual sets in recent years.  Songs from the Longleaf Pines, a bluegrass gospel collection from 2005, was released to overwhelming praise.   In 2007, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.   Always a patriot, his latest release is 2010’s Land That I Love, which features a handful of new songs alongside his many America-themed songs from the past.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Charlie Daniels, and the larger country music community.

1 Comment

  1. Ace guitar player, master fiddler, patriot and humanitarian – I guess that sums up a pretty good life

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