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The Best Songs of the Famed Fiddler and Country Star, Charlie Daniels

Charlie Daniels Songs

Charlie Daniels is a master at blending genres to produce a unique sound, which is a mixture of blues, country, and Southern rock. He may be synonymous with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which is perhaps one of the earliest examples of country-rap, but his catalog was defined by more than sing-speak recitations and fiddle fire.

Let’s celebrate Charlie Daniels’ life and career with these great songs he left us behind.

10. Damn Good Cowboy

From: Nightrider (1975)

“Damn Good Cowboy” tells a detailed and believable story about a tough hombre. It’s an amazing country song that features the Marshall Tucker Band’s Toy Caldwell on steel guitar.

9. The Legend of Wooley Swamp

From: Full Moon (1980)

“The Legend of Wooley Swamp” by the Charlie Daniels Band has now been a spine-tingling crowd-pleaser for four decades — and if you find that hard to believe, you’re not alone. Even Daniels is quite surprised that his tale of a greedy old hermit and a frightening murder has lasted this long. 

“You just sing it every night and don’t think about it,” Daniels told Rolling Stone Country in 2015. “All of a sudden, my son let me know it’s been 35 years, and it’s like, ‘Wow, where’d the time go?’ But the good feeling about it is people still want to hear it after 35 years.”

8. Uneasy Rider

From: Honey in the Rock (1973)

“Uneasy Rider” is sometimes considered a novelty song. It features a narrative spoken over a guitar melody with lyrics that reflect cultural divisions in the Southern United States between the early 1970s and the 1960s’ counterculture and more traditional Southern culture.

7. Sweet Louisiana

From: Full Moon (1980)

Charlie Daniels preached American perseverance and unity among the “cowboys, hippies, rebels, and yanks” in this patriotic anthem. The slick “In America” was made with a broader audience in mind, featuring more rock than country and with most Southern grit polished off.

Here, Daniels reacted to the different difficult issues America was facing in the late 1970s, such as the fallout from the Watergate scandal, the simultaneous double-digit inflation, unemployment, as well as the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979 to 1981. It nearly peaked into the Top 10 on the Hot 100 in 1980, just a few months before the Reagan presidency.

6. The South’s Gonna Do It Again

From: Fire on the Mountain (1974)

Daniels scored a top 30 hit in 1975 with the Southern anthem “The South’s Gonna Do It Again.” The song, which uses a smart play on words to promote Southern rock music, is a notion that “the South shall rise again.” 

It was a familiar sentiment and rallying cry for disaffected Southern whites after the American Civil War. Though the song co-opts that sentiment, it also uses the statement to celebrate Southern rock acts contemporary to the song itself. The song implied that the South would produce further popular Southern rock bands.

5. Long Haired Country Boy

From: Fire on the Mountain (1974)

“Long Haired Country Boy” was first released as a single in April 1975 and was released again as a single in 1980. The song contained references to drinking and drugs that Charlie Daniels felt were inappropriate to play it during live shows for many years. 

“Things have gotten so serious, and it’s such a big problem with drugs and alcohol with kids, and it just went against my Christian feelings to actually do anything that somebody could construe with promoting that lifestyle, or those things, the alcohol, and drugs,” Daniels said in an interview.

Years later, Daniels decided to change some of the words in “Long Haired Country Boy,” until he felt he could start playing it in his live shows again.

4. Mississippi

From: Million Mile Reflections (1979)

Daniels, who is usually more closely associated with uptempo rock numbers, scored himself a winning ballad with “Mississippi.” It is his follow-up single to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and it peaked just inside the Top 20 on country radio. 

The song features a lush string section reminiscent of Glen Campbell’s sweetly orchestrated country-pop chestnuts and a surprisingly tender, aching vocal performance from Daniels, who croons about his longing for something or someone he hasn’t seen in a long time. “Like a mist in the morning, from some dream I’ve left behind,” he sings, with no trace of his trademark bluster.

3. Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye

From: Me and the Boys (1986)

“Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye” is another drinking song written by Charlie Daniels, and he performed with the Charlie Daniels Band. The song peaked No. 8 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.

2. Still in Saigon

From: Windows (1982)

“Still in Saigon” is a compelling portrayal of the plight of the American Vietnam veteran a decade after the war. Saigon, which is now known as Ho Chi Minh City, was the South Vietnamese capital during the Vietnam War.  

“Dan Daley had written it, and it was very much in line with the way that I felt about the Vietnam veterans because it was so totally unfair how these people were treated when they came back from a war that they had nothing to do with starting,” Daniels said.

It became a significant song to many Vietnam veterans since it shows of support that rarely came their way in 1982.

1. The Devil Went Down to Georgia

From: Million Mile Reflections (1979)

Charlie Daniels, with the Charlie Daniels Band, tipped his cowboy hat to Saturday night barn dances and hillbilly fiddle tunes to celebrate American music through “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” reaching No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The up-tempo bluegrass song is about a Devil’s failed attempt to gain a young man’s soul through a fiddle-playing contest that involves asking for the young man’s participation by offering him a worldly prize. 

Charlie Daniels has said in interviews, “I don’t know where it came from, but it just did. Well, I think I might know where it came from, it may have come from an old poem called ‘The Mountain Whippoorwill’ that Stephen Vincent Benet wrote many, many years ago, that I had in high school. He didn’t use that line, but I started playing, and the band started playing, and first thing you know, we had it down.”

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” also appeared on the soundtrack of Urban Cowboy, an important film that helped the growth of danceable, pop-accessible country music in the early ’80s. The song stayed relevant in the face of changing times and remains one of the most iconic songs of the 1970s.

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