Charlie Daniels was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.
Charlie Daniels, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame best known for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” died Monday morning after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. He was 83.
Daniels’ death was confirmed by his publicist, Don Murry Grubbs, to The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network. He is survived by his wife, Hazel, and son Charlie Daniels, Jr.
By the time the Charlie Daniels Band topped the charts with “Devil” in 1979, the instrumentalist, singer and songwriter had long established a remarkable, multifaceted career in Music City. As a session musician, he played on three of Bob Dylan’s albums — including the revolutionary “Nashville Skyline” — as well as recordings for Ringo Starr, Leonard Cohen, Tammy Wynette and other luminaries.
From there he built his own career as Grammy-winning singer, entertainer, songwriter and fiddle virtuoso. He migrated from an earlier countercultural stance epitomized on “Long Haired Country Boy” to become an advocate for patriotism and the military.
On his 2016 album “Night Hawk”, Daniels honored an often neglected branch in country’s family tree. “I’d wanted to do an album of cowboy songs for a decade or longer,” he told USA TODAY at the time. “But I didn’t want to get involved with the cowboy as portrayed in the movies. I wanted to get involved in the working cowboy’s life… To me, that was kind of our Knights of the Round Table era.
“But even now, if you went to a foreign country and asked them ‘What is your prototype of American history?’ They’d probably think of the cowboy, the guy with the big hat, the spurs and the big boots.”
In other words, a guy pretty much like Daniels.
In 1974, the native of Wilmington, N.C. launched the first “Volunteer Jam,” an all-star concert that has continued for nearly 50 years. Entertainers at these shows included Don Henley, Amy Grant, James Brown, Pat Boone, Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alabama, Billy Joel, Little Richard, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eugene Fodor and Woody Herman.
With The Journey Home Project, he helped raise money for veteran assistance including donating $50,000 to the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center to help U.S. military veterans battling cancer.
He played himself in the 1980 John Travolta movie “Urban Cowboy” and was closely identified with the rise of country music generated by that film. Some of his other hits were “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye,” “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues” and “Uneasy Rider.”
In the 1990s Daniels softened some of his lyrics from his earlier days when he often was embroiled in controversy.
In “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” a 1979 song about a fiddling duel between the devil and a whippersnapper named Johnny, Daniels originally called the devil a “son of a bitch,” but changed it to “son of a gun.”
In his 1980 hit “Long Haired Country Boy,” he used to sing about being “stoned in the morning” and “drunk in the afternoon.” Daniels changed it to “I get up in the morning. I get down in the afternoon.”
“I guess I’ve mellowed in my old age,” Daniels said in 1998.
Otherwise, though, he rarely backed down from in-your-face lyrics.
His “Simple Man” in 1990 suggested lynching drug dealers and using child abusers as alligator bait. His “In America” in 1980 told the country’s enemies to “go straight to hell.”
Such tough talk earned him guest spots on “Politically Incorrect,” the G. Gordon Liddy radio show and on C-Span taking comments from viewers.
Daniels joined the Grand Ole Opry in 2008, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.
Contributing: Bob Doerschuk, Cindy Watts, AP
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