A Southern Allegory
Long ago, there was a famed legend about a man who met a stranger at a crossroads one night in Mississippi. That young man’s name was Robert Johnson. The stranger then offered him a deal. He tuned Johnson’s guitar and handed it back to him. In return, the stranger granted the aspiring young artist immortality – in art if not in life.
Later, Johnson went on to be known as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. However, he never lived to see or witness his success. In 1938, he died at the age of 27. With his passing, he left a handful of recordings that would make him posthumously popular.
The mysterious guy who tuned Johnson’s guitar remained to be unknown. He was never identified, but many say, to this day, that it was Satan.
Many accounts consider that Johnson’s story is just an example of the Faustian legend. To note, the Faustian legend is one of the most enduring types of stories in Western culture. As it predated Goethe’s 1808 play, Faust, it became a widespread term and has since been known retroactively by centuries. This type of legend incarnates a tale and conjures a more dramatic effect. Hence, the central focus of the story is simple yet striking. As in Johnson’s story, he made a deal with the Devil and was rewarded. However, he eventually lost everything as the Devil took his most precious possession – his soul.
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia”
As much as the legend became widely popular, Charlie Daniels knows this very well. In fact, he conceived a powerful country-rock crossover hit with his band, The Charlie Daniels Band. This song would then be known as “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” It was a smash for him and his band as it earned a Grammy and also sold millions of copies worldwide.
Since then, the song remains one of the most recognizable tunes of all time in any genre. Like the Faust legend earlier mentioned, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” has become archetypal. It symbolizes a quintessential and typical kind of a person. In contrary, one thing is only different. This time, the Devil loses to the man who outwitted him in the match.
Further, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was recorded by Daniels and his band on December 5, 1978, and released the following year. It then went big as it appeared on different charts around the world. In fact, it appeared on 11 charts in seven different countries.
Check out the song below as performed by Charlie Daniels and his band at the Grand Ole Opry: