100 Greatest Men: The Complete List
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.
- Uneasy Rider, 1973
- The South’s Gonna Do It, 1975
- Long Haired Country Boy, 1975
- The Devil Went Down to Georgia, 1979
- In America, 1981
- Simple Man, 1989
- Charlie Daniels, 1970
- Fire on the Mountain, 1975
- Nightrider, 1975
- Million Mile Reflections, 1979
- Simple Man, 1989
- Songs From the Longleaf Pines, 2005
Next: #60. Don Gibson
Previous: #62. Red Foley
“Still in Saigon” and “The Devil …” are my favorites. Loved it when the Zac Brown Band covered the latter at the 2009 CMA’s.
“This Ain’t No Rag. It’s a Flag.”