The loss of Charlie Daniels closes the chapter on one of the more controversial voices in country music history. It also ushers out one of the most iconic artists in music history, producing a body of work that would live far beyond his own existence.
Daniels passed after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke, according to publicist Don Murry Grubbs, leaving behind wife Hazel and son Charlie Daniels, Jr. He was born in 1936 and wrapped his youth in the musical sounds of bluegrass and gospel before enjoying a long career in the music industry.
Even before he put out his own solo work, Daniels made an impact on the music industry as a session musician alongside Bob Dylan on his album Nashville Skyline, plus work with Leonard Cohen, The Marshall Tucker Band and Elvis Presley. But Daniels' work on his own made its own mark on the world of music and helped to define him as a person as the years marched by. He released over 30 studio albums and had been working up until his shocking death. He had even been planning to return to perform in August, the ongoing pandemic withstanding.
Daniels' music was a mixture of traditional country music, southern rock staples and some songs filled with politically charged content. He inhabited all points in the spectrum, beginning his career as part of what he considered "counterculture" to becoming more conservative and nationalistic near the end of his career. His music reflected these changes but always managed to maintain the same energy.
Scroll down to go through his musical output and his career.
Daniels' first major solo hit, this song is not what you'd expect if you're only aware of the musician from his modern political views and songs. Listening to it now, it is almost like Daniels confronting the modern version of himself. It does set the stage for joining the Outlaw Country movement at the time, entering the conversation alongside Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams, Jr.prevnext
'The South's Gonna Do It Again'
Another song from Charlie Daniels that doesn't seem to be about what you assume from the title. It twists the old slogan used by those seeking the return to the Confederate days and focuses it more on the southern rock music from the time.
The song addresses "Southern pride" but shifts focus away from the ideals of the Confederacy to supporting musical acts from the South. This includes Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Elvin Bishop, and Dickey Betts of Allman Brothers fame. He also addressed the potential controversy of the song after it was used by the KKK during radio commercials for a Louisiana rally in 1975 according to Billboard magazine.
"I'm damn proud of the South, but I sure as hell am not proud of the Ku Klux Klan. ... I wrote the song about the land I love and my brothers. It was not written to promote hate groups."prevnext
'Long Haired Country Boy'
Much like David Allan Coe's "Longhaired Redneck," Daniels' "Long Haired Country Boy" is a perfect representation of the music at the time, much like "Uneasy Rider."prevnext
'The Devil Went Down to Georgia'
The staple of Charlie Daniels' career has to be "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." It is a cultural milestone and has influenced countless tales and views of the Devil upon its release, even spawning a sequel in the early nineties featuring Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt and Johnny Cash telling the next chapter of Johnny versus Satan.
It spawned countless references in television and film, including any instance where the devil was set to be a character on the show.prevnext
'The Legend of Wooley Swamp'
Another spooky, story song followed "Devil" and told the story of Wooley Swamp. It was a real place from his youth that he added in a folktale about Lucius Clay and three young men who are after his money. They catch him and beat him, but end up in quicksand at the end of the tale, while the ghostly Clay is heard laughing in the distance.prevnext
Throughout the 1980s, Daniels more conservative values would begin to show. Patriotism was at the top of his list for a while, with "Simple Man" marking the beginning of a turn toward right-wing issues and accusations of vigilantism. This and songs like "(What This World Needs) Is a Few More Rednecks" from the Simple Man album capture his views at the time and showed how they would amplify into the outspoken right-wing supporter during the George W. Bush years. He would follow this with his book titled Ain't No Rag and published an open letter supporting Bush's war in Iraq following the September 11th attacks.
While his final years were divisive, Daniels never stopped playing music and the wealth of people speaking out in his honor show just how much he meant to country music.prev