Charlie Daniels, 80, can recall the moment he first heard the news about the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He details the day vividly in his new memoir Never Look at the Empty Seats, which comes out Oct. 24.
At the time, Daniels was five years old, and he was at his grandmother’s house in North Carolina on a cold Sunday afternoon in December. His entire family was gathered together when news that the Imperial Japanese Air Force had bombed the U.S. naval base in Hawaii was broadcasted on the radio.
Daniels remembers president Franklin D. Roosevelt calling December 7, 1941 as a day that would live in infamy. But to Daniels, it was a day that would help shape many of his attitudes for the rest of his life.
Daniels grew up to become an American patriot and a staunch supporter of the U.S. military. Proceeds from his sold-out 80th Birthday Volunteer Jam in 2016 supported his nonprofit the Journey Home Project, which has been supporting veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces since its 2014 inception.
But fans will never hear the Country Music Hall of Famer, who is also a supporter of President Donald Trump, voice his political opinions live in concert.
“I get pretty political at times,” Daniels said in a new interview with CMT’s Hot 20 Countdown, “but that’s not in the ticket price. I don’t take that onstage with me, and I wouldn’t dare get onstage and start talking politics to somebody.”
Daniels is also a huge football fan and during his CMT visit, he proudly wore a Tennessee Vols baseball cap in support of one of his favorite teams.
But when the conversation turned to his opinions on NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem, Daniels said he believes players have every right to protest against racial inequality and police brutality, but they shouldn’t do it during the National Anthem out of respect for the military.
“Players say they don’t mean to insult the veterans, but they have insulted the veterans,” Daniels said. “I know that. I know that from personal and social media guys that are very, very upset about this.
“Taking a knee during the national anthem don’t explain anything to anybody. Nobody really understands what they’re doing.”
NFL players have been protesting during the National Anthem since the 2016 season, but the issue was reignited this week after a rally in Alabama where President Trump called on NFL owners to fire players who took a knee during the National Anthem.
“He’s a loud mouth,” Daniels said of Trump. “There’s no two ways about it. Sometimes he’d be a lot better if he would leave that Twitter alone because he does do things like that. And sometimes he says things that are very inflammatory. But this was happening before he said that, this was something that was picking up speed before he ever started.”
As an entertainer who has lived through cancer, stroke and some heart trouble, Daniels doesn’t waste much time dwelling on issues that divide society. One of his secrets to personal happiness is always living in the present and not worrying about what will happen in the future.
“I live one day at a time,” he said. “I have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. I have no control over what’s going to happen tomorrow. My feeling is if I do the best I can today, tomorrow will take care of itself.”
Daniels’ Hot 20 interview airs Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 30 and Oct. 1) at 9 a.m. ET. He turns 81 on Oct. 28 and his 2017 tour continues through December.