Country music legend Charlie Daniels died on July 6, 2020, after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. The Country Music Hall of Fame member and fiddle-playing frontman of the Charlie Daniels Band was 83 years old.
Of course, 2020 was a difficult year in so many ways as our country battled the pandemic. But it was especially difficult for fans of country music. Last year, we lost so many important artists, including Kenny Rogers, Joe Diffie, John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker, Billy Joe Shaver, Charley Pride, and more.
Charlie’s death hit hard. The man was larger than life, both onstage and off.
Onstage, Charlie Daniels Band helped redefine what a country music band sounded like. Along with Alabama, Charlie’s rockin’ brand of country music ushered in a new era of band-driven music in the late 1970s—a 180-degree about-face from the pure vocal groups of the era.
Offstage, you’d be hard-pressed to find a kinder soul, or a more enjoyable conversationalist—whether or not you agreed with Charlie’s point of view, politics, or faith. All of which he wore on his sleeve.
“The last year has been challenging for mom and I, but we are committed to keeping dad’s wisdom, his legacy, and his music alive for future generations,” said Charlie Daniels Jr. to Outsider. “We’ll be announcing the first of those endeavors very soon. Every day dad tweeted, ‘Let’s all make the day count,’ and we are continuing to live by those words.”
“The broad stroke that Charlie made with his music crossed many boundaries,” added David Corlew, Charlie’s longtime manger and friend. “From rock, Christian, country, blues, so many. The impact he had on people, their core beliefs, their faith, and their patriotism, was epic. The void he left is monumental.”
In celebration of Charlie’s musical legacy, let’s revisit three of my favorite songs from his catalog.
‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’
Like many people, the discussion about my favorite CDB song begins and ends with his 1979 No. 1 hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” I’ll never forget the first time I heard it as an 8-year-old in 1987. My father had taken me and my two brothers camping in the Arkansas Ozarks, and we picked up an AM station out of Little Rock. The tune was mind-blowing. And to this day, I still think the Devil won.
‘Long Haired Country Boy’
Charlie, along with Hank Williams Jr., was a key player in connecting the worlds of country and Southern rock in the mid-’70s. Nowhere was that more evident than the message of individualism and swampy self-reliance in the lyrics of Charlie’s 1975 Southern-rock single: “But I ain’t asking nobody for nothin’ / If I cant get it on my own / If you don’t like the way I’m livin’ / You just leave this long-haired country boy alone.”
‘Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye’
Before I left for college in 1997, I purchased Charlie’s 1994 compilation album, Super Hits, thanks to a gift card. Track No. 7 was my go-to jam, “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye.” The opening lyrics still make me smile every time I hear ’em, probably because it feels like I lived ’em: “Sitting on a bar stool / Acting like a dern fool / That’s what I’m a doin’ today.”