The Southern rock and country musician Charlie Daniels has died. The Tennesseean reports that Daniels died this morning after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. Daniels was 83.
Daniels, a native of North Carolina, grew up playing fiddle, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. For a few years, he played guitar in a rock band called the Jaguars. Later on, he moved to Nashville and found work as a session musician. In 1964, he co-wrote “It Hurts Me,” a song that Elvis Presley later recorded, with the producer Bob Johnston. He also played on records like Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, and New Morning, as well as Leonard Cohen’s Songs From A Room and Songs Of Love And Hate. When Cohen played his famous set at the Isle Of Wight festival in 1970, Daniels was in his band.
In 1970, Daniels released his self-titled debut album, and he carved out a then-novel persona as a long-haired rebellious country-music hardass, one who could bridge the divide between country and rock. Daniels played on records from the Marshall Tucker Band and Hank Williams, Jr., and he started scoring hits of his own in the mid-’70s. His 1979 hit “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” a story-song that gave him plenty of chances to show off his fiddle skills, peaked at #3 on the Hot 100; it remains his biggest song.
Daniels and his Charlie Daniels Band scored more crossover hits into the late ’80s; he made the top 10 on the pop charts with 1986’s “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye” and 1988’s “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues.” He also did some acting, including cameos as himself in 1980’s Urban Cowboy and a few episodes of King Of The Hill. He toured tirelessly and, toward the end of his life, became a living symbol of country-music cantankerousness.
When Daniels first emerged as a solo artist, his whole persona was laid out in his song “Long-Haired Country Boy.” He sang about being both Southern and counterculture. He supported Jimmy Carter and played at Carter’s inauguration. But from the ’80s on, Daniels became a loud and vocal right-winger.
Below, watch a few videos of Daniels at work.