Country legend Charlie Daniels, 83, died on Monday morning (July 6) after a hemorrhagic stroke.
The singer, songwriter fiddler and Country Music Hall of Famer best known for his classic 1979 song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” is survived by his wife, Hazel, and son Charlie Daniels, Jr.
Known as one of country music’s most patriotic personalities, Daniels joined the Grand Ole Opry in 2008 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016. Equally known for being outspoken about his conservative political beliefs, he accepted the First Amendment Center/Americana Music Association “Spirit of Americana” Free Speech Award in 2006.
A prolific recording artist, Daniels charted 34 singles on Billboard’s country chart. His Top 10 hits include “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye” from 1986 and “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues” from 1988. Other notable singles from his catalog include “Uneasy Rider,” “In America,” and “Simple Man.” A devout Christian, Daniels also earned four Grammy nominations for his gospel recordings.
Daniels was born on October 28, 1936, in Wilmington, North Carolina, and became one of the world’s most recognizable fiddle players with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The smash hit won a Grammy, a CMA Award for Single of the Year, and appeared in the iconic 1980 film, Urban Cowboy. He shared a writing credit on the song with members of the Charlie Daniels Band.
Other perennial favorites include “Trudy,” “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” and “Long Haired Country Boy.”
Before breaking out as a country star, Daniels made a name for himself as a studio musician, in particular on Bob Dylan’s 1970 classic, Nashville Skyline.
“I hung on every word that came out of his mouth and every note he played on his guitar. I was trying to interpret everything he was doing to the very best of my ability. I mean, I really got into it. I really concentrated as hard as I could. I played as good as I could. Evidently, I played some notes he liked,” Daniels told CMT.com in 2014.
His 1983 compilation, A Decade of Hits, sold more than four million albums, and perhaps the Charlie Daniels Band’s best album, 1979’s Million Mile Reflections, exceeded three million copies in sales.
Daniels served as a role model for innumerable country artists who weren’t afraid for their music to get rowdy. His countless collaborators in his later years included George Jones, Aaron Lewis, Montgomery Gentry, Travis Tritt, and Gretchen Wilson. He appeared on cue in a comical 2009 Geico TV commercial when an announcer rhetorically asks, “Does Charlie Daniels play a mean fiddle?”
A consistent draw on the touring circuit, Daniels had planned on staging his recurring Volunteer Jam in 2021. That all-star event launched in Nashville in 1974 and became a tradition among country and Southern rock fans.
Daniels also remained a friend and supporter of the Armed Forces. When a photography exhibit opened at the Pentagon in 2019, funded by Daniels’ non-profit The Journey Home Project (TJHP), the legendary performer stated, “My respect for anybody that puts that uniform on knows no bounds and I pay gratitude to those people.”