Country music firebrand and fiddler Charlie Daniels, who had a hit with The Devil Went Down to Georgia in 1979, has died at the age of 83.
A statement from his publicist said the Country Music Hall of Famer died on Monday (July 6) at a hospital in Hermitage, Tennessee, after doctors said he had a stroke.
He had reportedly suffered what was described as a mild stroke in Jan. 2010 and had a heart pacemaker implanted in 2013, however, continued to perform.
Daniels, a singer, guitarist and fiddler, started out as a session musician, even playing on Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline sessions. Beginning in the early 1970s, his five-piece band toured endlessly, sometimes doing 250 shows a year.
“I can ask people where they are from, and if they say `Waukegan,′ I can say I’ve played there. If they say `Baton Rouge,′ I can say I’ve played there. There’s not a city we haven’t played in,” Daniels said in 1998.
Throughout his six-decade spanning career, Daniels performed at the White House, the Super Bowl, across Europe and often for troops in the Middle East.
In wake of his passing, an abundance of fans and friends of Daniels took to Twitter airing their grievances at their loss while also sharing memories of the critically acclaimed musician.
Here’s what some Twitter users had to say:
“God has called Charlie Daniels home,” wrote another user. “He was a good soul whose 83 years wasn’t nearly long enough to have graced this earth.”
“He will be missed greatly,” they concluded.
Daniels even played himself in the 1980 John Travolta movie Urban Cowboy and was closely identified with the rise of country music generated by that film.
“I’ve kept people employed for over 20 years and never missed a payroll,” the rocker said in 1998. That same year, he received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music.
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 song about a fiddling duel between the devil and a whippersnapper named Johnny, Daniels originally called the devil a “son of a b—h,” but changed it to “son of a gun.”
In his 1980 hit Long Haired Country Boy, Daniels 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,” he joked in a 1998 interview.
Otherwise, Daniels rarely backed down from in-your-face lyrics.
In 1990’s Simple Man, the North Carolia-born musician alluded to lynching drug dealers and using child abusers as alligator bait.
He also told his country’s enemies to “go straight to hell” in the popular 1980 tune In America
Such tough talk earned him guest spots on Politically Incorrect, the G. Gordon Liddy radio show and on C-Span taking comments from viewers.
The Devil Went Down to Georgia was No. 1 on the country charts in 1979 and No. 3 on the pop charts. It was voted single of the year by the Country Music Association.
In the song’s climactic verse, Daniels sang: “The devil bowed his head because he knew that he’d been beat / He laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny’s feet. / Johnny said, `Devil just come on back if you ever want to try again . I told you once you son of a gun, I’m the best that’s ever been.”
Daniels hosted regular Volunteer Jam concerts in Nashville in which the performers usually were not announced in advance.
Entertainers at thes shows included Don Henley, Amy Grant, James Brown, Pat Boone, Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, the Lynyrd Skynyrd Band, Alabama, Billy Joel, Little Richard, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eugene Fodor and Woody Herman, among many others.
Daniels, a native of Wilmington, N.C., played on several Bob Dylan albums as a Nashville recording session guitarist in the late 1960s, including New Morning and Self-Portrait.
Eventually, at the age of 71, he was invited to join the epitome of Nashville’s music establishment, the Grand Ole Opry. He was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.
Daniels said in 1998 that he kept touring so much because “I have never played those notes perfectly. I’ve never sung every song perfectly. I’m in competition to be better tonight than I was last night and to be better tomorrow than tonight.”
He said his favorite place to play was “anywhere with a good crowd and a good paycheck.”
— With files from Global News’ Adam Wallis