I’m not gonna lie, I love the smash hit song “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” and have enjoyed seeing Charlie Daniels shred strings and bow hairs on his fiddle playing this classic tune of outsmarting the devil. Yet I must admit that I didn’t know before looking it up just how important and just how influential Charlie Daniels has been as a musician over the course of his career. Many people might think of him as a one-hit wonder, and not recognize his sustained popularity on the album charts (more on that below) nor recognize the fact that he has numerous other hit songs on the country, pop, and adult contemporary charts in the United States as well as Canada that are well worth remembering. And since people have brought to my attention the fact that I have yet to write about him, and he clearly has a very strong case for induction (he is more popular on the mainstream charts than he was as a country musician, which is something I find both impressive and very unexpected), and so let us take a look at the man behind the furious fiddling and see how it is that a man whose lasting claim to fame is portraying a wise trickster and his duel with the devil is worthy of being remembered for much more.
The Influence Of Charlie Daniels
The most obvious area of influence for Charlie Daniels has been within country music, where he is in halls of fame in Cheyenne, the Grand Ole Opry, as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame. All of this is unexpected given that Charlie Daniels is a southern-fried fiddler who has been active in music since the 1950’s and who is a talented multi-instrumentalist whose music has long involved southern themes and a proud southern identity. But the influence of Charlie Daniels (and his band) has been more profound than that, helping to bring that Southern identity into the mainstream in a way that has achieved popular success as well as the recognition and support of a great many others who have followed in his footsteps . If you appreciate the somewhat prickly tone of acts like Montgomery Gentry or Hank Williams Jr., then you owe at least some small debt of gratitude to Charlie Daniels for helping pave the way for mainstream acceptance of that proud and prickly Southern identity as well as its instrumentation like fiddles and mandolins and the like.
Why Charlie Daniels Belongs In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
We already know that Charlie Daniels is in the country hall of fame. What makes him rock enough? For one, his popular extends far outside of the range of country music alone. He has a multiplatinum studio album (along with two multi-platinum compilations), as well as three platinum and three more gold studio albums over the period from 1974-1989, demonstrating considerable longevity. He also brings some solid hits, including two top ten hits (“Uneasy Rider” and “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”) as well as several other top 40 hits (“The South’s Gonna Do It,” “In America,” “The Legend Of Wooley Swamp,” and “Still In Saigon”). The sheer variety of these songs from countercultural encounters with close-minded country folk to patriotic tunes to meditations about the lingering effects of war (both the Civil War and Vietnam) suggests Charlie Daniels’ immense versatility as a musician and his ability to capture his own identity in memorable and important songs that are a lot more serious than he has often been given credit for. He was not only successful in country but also in rock, adult contemporary (where “Still In Saigon” hit #2 and where “Bogged Down In Love With You” hit #22) and also Canadian country .
Why Charlies Daniels Isn’t In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Given my own previous lack of awareness with the full variety of Daniels’ music, it is likely that many others simply think of Charlie Daniels as the man behind a couple of novelty top tens (if they think of the Devil Went Down To Georgia as a novelty song instead of a deeply fascinating and worthwhile lasting hit, which it is) and do not think anything more about his music. They might think of him only as a country artist and not one whose mainstream success often exceeded his success on the country charts. For example, all of his top 40 songs on the mainstream chart except for “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” were more popular than on the country chart, which is a very striking phenomenon. Quite a few of his pop hits never even hit the country charts at all, suggesting that he had a mainstream popularity that was not connected to his genre. Ultimately, whether his patriotism is unpopular or he is viewed as being limited to the country ghetto, none of those reasons are good enough to deny him induction.
Verdict: Put him in while he is still alive to enjoy it, God willing.