Charlie Daniels, singer, songwriter, country music legend, and pioneer of Southern rock, died Monday at the age of 83. Musically, Daniels was best known for his song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” but beyond his legendary musical talent, he was an outspoken patriot, veterans advocate, and man of faith. Doctors said Daniels died of a hemorrhagic stroke in Hermitage, Tenn. Monday morning.
Born and raised in rural North Carolina before moving to Nashville, Daniels started his career as a recording session musician, causing Daniels’ music to span genres and generations of artists. He played on albums with Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Ringo Starr, and even had one of his songs recorded by Elvis Presley despite never having even met The King. His musical genius and ability to channel various styles including jazz fusion, funk, gospel, and blues inevitably led to pioneering the blend of country and rock also known as Southern rock.
He would later be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in the same class as Randy Travis, and perform as a member of The Grand Ole Opry with artists like Montgomery Gentry and Trace Adkins. “My Bible tells me God gives us the desires of our hearts, and tonight the promise has come true,” Daniels said the night he was inducted in the Opry in 2008.
In 1972 he formed the Charlie Daniels Band, and the group scored its first hit with the top ten song “Uneasy Rider” which tells the story of a long-haired hippie finding himself in a Mississippi bar. Their other popular hits include “Long Haired Country Boy,” “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” “In America,” “The Legend of Wooley Swamp.” In 1979, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” won a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a duo or group and single of the year at the Country Music Association Awards.
In an entertainment industry that shuns and rejects conservative voices, Daniels was an ardent supporter of the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, law enforcement, military, the death penalty, the Bible, and just about any other conservative-leaning value that would get an artist cancelled these days. He happily shared his political beliefs with audiences with phrases like “the only good terrorist is a dead terrorist.” He spoke out against the crime of pedophilia, saying he believed, “The lowest form of animal life on earth is a child molester.”
Another Daniels mantra was that, “The only two things protecting America is the grace of God and the United States military.” Daniels repeatedly traveled across the world to play for U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Korea, Kuwait and Guantanamo Bay.
With his manager, David Corlew, Daniels co-founded The Journey Home Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and improving the lives of American veterans. The Journey Home Project has raised more than $1 million to give to veterans, veteran programs, and charities, with $50,000 going to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for research on a unique kind of cancer that targets veterans and affects all their organs. For the last four years, nearly every day, Daniels would tweet the message, “22 VETERANS COMMIT SUICIDE EVERY DAY!”
Here are some of Daniels’ most memorable appearances and performances
1. Performing ‘Long-haired Country Boy’
2. Performing ‘Simple Man’ at The Grand Old Opry
3. ‘Amazing Grace’ with Michael W. Smith
— BGEA (@BGEA) July 6, 2020