Country & Southern Rock Legend Charlie Daniels Has Died

Country Music Hall of Famer and Southern rock icon Charlie Daniels has died. The 83-year-old passed away unexpectedly Monday morning (7-6) after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. Daniels’ death has been confirmed by his publicist, Don Murry Grubbs.

A titan of American music, Charlie Daniels started his career on the outside looking into the mainstream as a long-haired fiddle player who could identify with Southern rednecks and anti-war hippies alike during the Vietnam era and the rise of the counterculture. Daniels then went on to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and firebrand of conservative values, and a worldwide ambassador of fiddle music universally recognized for his American classic, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Born October 28, 1936, in Wilmington, North Carolina, and raised on Pentecostal Gospel from the church, bluegrass bands from the region, and the rhythm & blues and country music played on the local radio, he rose to become a respected multi-instrumentalist, proficient on guitar, banjo, mandolin, as well as fiddle, so much so Charlie’s first steady work in music was as a studio musician in Nashville, playing on records from Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, not to mention countless country records of the mid and late 60’s era.

From there he launched a solo career, recording his first solo album in 1971. It was on his third record, 1973’s Honey in the Rock where Daniels had his first hit somewhat accidentally with the humorous “Uneasy Rider” where he recounted a story of getting on the wrong side of rednecks. It was a Top 10 all-genre hit on the Billboard Hot Songs chart, and put Daniels on the national map as a song that seemed to speak perfectly to the times.

The Charlie Daniels Band would go on to cross cultural divides and genres from blending country with strong rock influences, and songs that spoke to many, from the war torn “Still In Saigon,” to “Long-Haired Country Boy.” Charlie Daniels became a symbol for the American 70’s and the cultural friction they caused. Though Charlie Daniels became a star on his own, he never stopped playing fiddle with others. Daniels appears on most all of the early Marshall Tucker Band albums, on Hank Williams Jr.’s Hank Williams Jr. & Friends, and countless other recording over many decades.

But of course you can’t talk about Charlie Daniels without making the centerpiece his song “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” A #1 country hit co-written by Daniels himself, it won him a Grammy Award in 1979, and is one of the most well-recognized songs in American history.

As Charlie Daniels grew older, he became a more active voice in American politics, and a polarizing character to many for some of his stances. Eschewing his more liberal and moderate views of the 70’s, he became a symbol of the American right. But that never got in the way of trying to use music as a universal language. His now legendary Volunteer Jam lineups drew talent from all across the musical and political spectrum, and raised millions of dollars for charity. As a fiddle player, he became an ambassador for the instrument.

In 2007, Charlie Daniels was asked to become a member of The Grand Ole Opry, and in 2016, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. “I’m flabbergasted, I really am,” said Charlie. “This is the one you don’t even dare dream about. You can work toward other goals. There’s no way to work toward this goal. It’s something that either happens or it don’t. And I can’t think of a bigger honor to be given to anybody who loves country music. This is the cherry on top of the icing … I’m very humbled this morning to think about the shoulders that I stand on; the artists who blazed a trail down millions of miles of two lane black top to take this music to the people who loved it: the common man.”

Charlie Daniels is survived by his wife, Hazel, and son Charlie Daniels, Jr. Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.

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