(1936 - 2020)
Charlie Daniels was born on October 28, 1936, in Wilmington, North Carolina, and became one of the world’s most recognizable fiddle players with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The monster hit won a Grammy, a CMA Award for Single of the Year, and appeared in the iconic 1980 film, Urban Cowboy. Daniels shared a writing credit on the song with members of the Charlie Daniels Band.
The legendary Charlie Daniels, died Monday July 6th, 2020 of a hemorrhagic stroke at 83 years of age. The beloved singer, songwriter fiddler and Country Music Hall of Famer is survived by his wife, Hazel whom he married on September 20th, 1964, and son Charlie Daniels, Jr..
An avid University of Tennessee sports fan, Daniels also enjoyed hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, and other outdoor activities. 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 Nashville. As a session musician, he played on three of Bob Dylan’s albums including “Nashville Skyline”, as well as recordings for Ringo Starr and Leonard Cohen.
Daniels was a hands on farmer who enjoyed doing things for himself. He suffered a major arm injury on January 30, 1980, while digging fence post holes on his farm near Mount Juliet. The injury included three complete breaks in his right arm and two broken fingers when his shirtsleeve caught on a spinning auger. The injury required surgery and sidelined him for four months but anybody who knew Daniels well knew he would return to all the things he was passionate about in his life and other health issues met with the same resolve.
Despite his arm injury 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. What some music insiders consider the Charlie Daniels Band’s best album, 1979’s "Million Mile Reflections", exceeded three million copies in sales. Further he felt a duty to his band and others and was once quoted as saying in 1998, “I’ve kept people employed for over 20 years and never missed a payroll.” That same year, he received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music.
Daniels kept soldering on through other health issues, such as being successfully treated for prostate cancer in 2001. Further, on January 15, 2010, Daniels was rushed to the hospital after suffering a stroke while snowmobiling in Colorado, he was released two days later. During a doctor visit on March 25, 2013, Daniels was diagnosed with a mild case of pneumonia and admitted to a Nashville hospital for a series of routine tests. The tests showed that a pacemaker was needed to regulate his heart rate and one was implanted on March 28, with Daniels being released from hospital within days.
Daniel's 1983 compilation, "A Decade of Hits", sold more than four million albums and the one thing that was well known about Charlie Daniels he was never afraid to get rowdy in his music. His numerous collaborators in later years included such icons as George Jones, Aaron Lewis, Montgomery Gentry, Travis Tritt, and Gretchen Wilson. A nod to his sense of humor had him appear on cue in a 2009 Geico TV commercial when an announcer rhetorically asks, “Does Charlie Daniels play a mean fiddle?”
Charlie Daniels had no plans to quit touring and he was a consistent draw on the touring circuit. Daniels had planned on staging his recurring Volunteer Jam in 2021, an all star event launched in Nashville in 1974 that became a tradition among Country and Southern rock fans. 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.
Daniels' accolades and awards during his long career in music included his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Musicians Hall of Fame and becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry at 71 years of age. He not only won the coveted Grammy Award for best Country vocal performance by a duo or group but also won a Dove Award for Gospel albums. A devout Christian, Daniels also earned four Grammy nominations for his Gospel recordings.
Daniels charted 34 singles on the Country chart. Some of his Top 10 hits include “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye” from 1986 and “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues” from 1988. Notable singles from his catalog include “Uneasy Rider,” “In America,” and “Simple Man.”
God and country were at the center of the fitting funeral service for Charlie Daniels. It began with a hymn, “The Lord is My Shepherd,” sung by Carolyn Corlew, a longtime background singer in the Charlie Daniels Band. A color guard then marched up to Daniels’ casket with the U.S. and Tennessee flags, and the hundreds gathered inside World Outreach Church rose to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Vince Gill combined his “Go Rest High on That Mountain” with a rendition of “America the Beautiful.” Travis Tritt led the congregation in “Amazing Grace,” Gretchen Wilson sang “I’ll Fly Away” and Trace Adkins “Arlington.”
Along with flags and red and white flowers, Daniels’ casket was surrounded by his instruments including a Gibson Les Paul electric guitar, white boots, silver belt buckle with a Cross, and his fiddle, the instrument to which he narrated Satan's defeat in "Devil" each night on stage.
Friends and fans of Southern Rock, Country and Gospel music gathered at the church gathered at the church to celebrate his friendship, faith, and Daniels' five decade long contribution to music, as they say "A life well lived." Michael W. Smith, Randy Travis (who had suffered a severe stroke himself) , David Lee Murphy, Mark Wills and original Marshall Tucker Band leader singer Doug Gray, who traveled from South Carolina, and a multitude of others in the music industry attended.
Outside of the church, law enforcement vehicles from across the state lined the street, and large groups of motorcyclists revved in the outside lot, where a video screen projected the service for parking lot viewers.
Tammy Williams flew in from Hudson, Florida, to her longtime friend’s funeral because she said she “couldn’t not come.”She worked with Daniels on a yearly fundraiser in her hometown.
Daniels' longtime friend and ranch manager Thurman Mullins said while tearing up, “A man said this about Charlie: He didn’t look up to nobody, he didn’t look down at nobody, he looked you straight in the eye. He and my dad were the two best men I’ve ever known. Charlie was honest, he told you what he thought. He was a great American. The folks that worked for him, they were all family. We’ve lost a legend in more ways than one. Charlie was a cowboy in the truest sense, he was a patriot in the truest sense, he was a family man in the truest sense, and he was a Christian.”
"He was a warrior and a poet and a man of courage and character," said World Outreach Church pastor Allen Jackson. Speakers emphasized Daniels' kind heart and the love and attention he gave those in his life, so freely. Prior to the service beginning Daniels’ famed “Devil Went Down to Georgia” played repeatedly through the church speakers and for those tuning into the live stream.
The service wound up a full week of remembrances and tributes to including a Wednesday memorial in his longtime home of Mt. Juliet.
Alongside his fiery fiddle playing, his faith, and patriotism, Daniels was known for his devotion to philanthropic efforts. He was never short on caring for others less fortunate, involved in anything from donating Christmas presents to families in need to supporting cancer research and raising more than $1 million to aid military veterans as part of his nonprofit Journey Home Project.
A remarkable life, lived by a remarkable man, Charlie Daniels.
by Deborah Gibson