Country Music Hall of Famer, Grand Ole Opry member and southern rock legend Charlie Daniels passed away Monday morning at Summit Medical Center in Hermitage, Tennessee. Doctors determined the cause of death was a hemorrhagic stroke. Daniels was 83.
The singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was known for his contributions to southern rock and bluegrass in addition to country. From his Dove Award-winning gospel albums to his genre-defining southern rock anthems and his CMA Award-winning country hits, few artists have left a more indelible mark on America's musical landscape than Daniels. An outspoken patriot, beloved mentor, and a true road warrior, Daniels parlayed his passion for music into a multi-Platinum career and a spotlight supporting the military, underprivileged children, and others in need. The Charlie Daniels Band has long populated radio with memorable hits such as the signature song, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."
Over the course of his career, Daniels received numerous accolades, including becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2008, inductions into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2009, and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016. Daniels helped to shine the spotlight on the many causes that are close to his heart. He was a staunch supporter of the military and gave his time and talent to numerous charitable organizations including The Journey Home Project, which he founded in 2014 with his long-time manager, David Corlew, to help veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Fellow artists mourned the loss of their friend and shared fond memories that have left them forever inspired by Charlie Daniels.
“I will truly miss my friend and fellow Country Music Hall Of Fame member, Charlie Daniels. He was one of the most honest and genuinely nice people in the business. I will miss our talks. We shared lots of memories and supported each other. My prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues.” Charley Pride
“All of The Oak Ridge Boys are saddened and devastated by this sudden and immeasurable loss. Charlie was not only a dear friend but a patriot who loved Jesus and loved the USA. It is all so very hard to process right now. ...We will miss Charlie, but we know where he is. … The everlasting arms of his and our savior hold him now. … until the day Charlie … until the day … prayers for Hazel.” Joe Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys
“One of the best friends, not only a peer, but a true friend. He was one of the most spiritual men. When we got together for a show in Oklahoma, we performed ‘Will The Circle be Unbroken.’ I never will forget that night.” Sam Moore
"What a loss and a shock – we can hardly put this in words. Charlie was such a beloved part of our community! He was a great friend and a fellow patriot. I will always cherish the countless shows we worked together over the decades and our backstage talks. He leaves an immeasurable mark on country and southern rock music. Charlie was a great leader and philanthropist, incredibly humble and one of the biggest supporters of our armed forces and veterans. I loved standing in the wings when he took the stage – he was powerful and magical – he left other artists in awe and every audience on their feet! We love you Charlie and will forever cherish our friendship." Lee and Kim Greenwood
“I am very saddened to hear of Charlie Daniels’ passing. I have known and loved Charlie since our early days when he appeared on one of my television specials and l played his Volunteer Jams. Charlie was a strong man who loved his family, fans and country. The music community and the world have lost an old friend.” Crystal Gayle
“Charlie Daniels has been a friend of mine for the last 40 or 50 years. He is one of the greatest artists in country music and an all-around wonderful man. We will miss you Charlie.” B.J. Thomas
“I recall a show I played in West Texas with Charlie, what a great talent and personality he was, and so respected in the music world. He and his memory are cherished and loved by all.” Janie Fricke
“It was an honor to know Charlie. He was a Godly, family man and the U.S.A. didn’t have a better friend. He always had an encouraging word and a firm handshake. Sheila and I pray for Miss Hazel, the family, the band and his entire organization. Rest in peace ol’ pal!” T. Graham Brown
“I am absolutely stunned and heartbroken over the loss of our legendary friend, the great Charlie Daniels! You could not find a finer or kinder man! His giant talent paled in comparison to the phenomenal human being that he was! He was passionate and honest about what he believed in and unapologetically spoke his truth. There is a reason he was so loved by all who knew him and such an icon in country music!!! He cut a wide path in our hearts! We love you Charlie! My prayers are with his family at this time of deep loss. Rest in peace Charlie.” Deborah Allen
"My heart goes out to Hazel, Charlie Jr. and their family. I always loved Charlie, and his music. He was the real deal and one of the great ones." Lacy J. Dalton
“I’m hurt. Charlie was one of the nicest guys in country music. He was always there to help anyone and he will be missed by all.” Johnny Lee
“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Charlie Daniels, a true country music Legend. ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ will live on as one of the most quintessential southern rock songs in history. My thoughts and prayers are with Charlie and his family. Rest in peace Charlie and God bless you.“ Deana Martin
“What a huge loss not only in the music industry, but in the world. Charlie was simply one of the kindest, most loving patriotic friends I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He loved his friends and country so deeply. I was honored and blessed to perform on his infamous Volunteer Jam. My heart is broken today and I send my prayers of comfort up for his precious family.” Kelly Lang
“It’s hard to imagine country music without Charlie Daniels and the world will never be the same. Thankfully he left a legacy like no other that we can reflect on. You are loved and you will be missed!” Shane Owens
“Charlie Daniels was a music icon, yet every time I played piano for Charlie he made me feel like I was part of the Charlie Daniels' family. He loved our country and devoted much of his time to encouraging and performing for our men and women in uniform. When my son, Torre, was in the Army, and he was about to ship out for his first tour in Iraq, Charlie met with Torre before he left, and he prayed with him. You have no idea what that meant to me. The devil can stay down in Georgia for all I care, because Charlie Daniels is heaven bound!” Tim Atwood
"Rest in peace to Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels. He was one of the true icons in country music and will forever be remembered. Charlie Daniels was a true American. Country music has lost one of its finest ambassadors today. Prayers to the family of Charlie Daniels." J.D. Shelburne
“It truly breaks my heart to hear of the passing of Mr. Charlie Daniels. As a fellow NC native, he was included in the soundtrack of nearly every road trip, bonfire night, and any other occasion! He was an extraordinary musician and such a joy to watch onstage – his spirit for music and performing was truly incredible! His family are in my thoughts and prayers during this hard time. He will truly be missed by fans all around!” Paige King Johnson
“When I was a kid at boarding school listening to my roommate's Charlie Daniels albums, I had never been exposed to country music, and I didn’t know what I was hearing, I just knew that it grabbed me. So I transported the feel of it to my rudimentary songwriting on the grand piano in the common room of that dorm, and it has stayed with me ever since. Classic songwriting and musical authenticity can reach across a culture like nothing else. Thanks to Charlie for waking a powerful spirit, all over the world.” Carrington MacDuffie
“A pioneer that stood for so many great things outside of music, a true patriot. He taught us all what a fiddle truly was while never being afraid to voice his opinion. He’s going to be deeply missed but his legacy will no doubt live on. Prayers and thoughts are with his family, friends and fans.” Vonn Kiss
"Charlie was one of the most talented, kindest, patriotic and spiritual people I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling a friend. Whether I was doing shows with him from the Opry stage or on a stage in far-away Japan, he always remained the consummate performer. The void he leaves in our business is enormous, and I know the music he will make in heaven will be overwhelming. Rest easy my friend." T.G. Sheppard
"Charlie Daniels was my friend. He was my friend on many levels and we had an unspoken understanding that if either of us ever needed the other, it was a given. Charlie was very bold about what he believed in and I am, too. I’m gonna miss you old friend. I’ll tell you all about what happens when I get there. I love you and I miss you already, but I’ll be there before you miss me. Say hello to Momma and enjoy your time till we meet again."
"The passing of Charlie Daniels is not only a huge loss for the industry but a personal loss. Charlie has been a personal friend throughout our career and we consider him family. Charlie was a patriot that stood for the good of all men. Charlie, you will be missed my friend." Jeff Cook of Alabama
"From the ’80s until last year, I've had the pleasure of not only touring with but getting to know Charlie Daniels. He was everything on stage a great artist should be. But it was the off stage Charlie I grew to love over the years. Many times Charlie would answer the call to do charity work and never charge a cent. He set a humble example of what a man, a friend, and Christian should be by the way he treated others. I’m gonna miss you my friend." Teddy Gentry of Alabama
“Nobody I respected or admired, in this world, any more than my real friend, Charlie Daniels.” Randy Owen of Alabama
"One of my favorite people on this earth, Charlie Daniels has gone on to his eternal reward today. Oh, how he will be missed at the Grand Ole Opry and everywhere else he was loved. Charlie, thank you for being a patriot, a statesman, a Christian, a friend, a father, a husband to Miss Hazel, and a great maker of music that will live on for generations. You made an indelible mark in this life, and you will be missed my brother." Ricky Skaggs
"Charlie Daniels embodied the fire of the South. He blurred lines between rock and country, when rock didn't think country was cool, and his Volunteer Jams weren't just legendary, they brought people from both of those worlds together. He was a patriot, a proud American, a world-class musician, an incredible showman, as well as a wonderful father, husband, grandpa and friend. We're all so sad to lose him, but if I know Charlie, he's up in Heaven, rosining up his bow and getting ready to let those fingers fly! Godspeed, my friend, you're home." Ronnie Milsap
“It is a sad day for a southern gentleman. A soft-spoken Godly man. A man I have known for 50 years. Yes, my heart is broken but Hazel and Charlie Jr. have all of us holding them with the strength that Mr. Daniels has given us through the years. We are missing a man that already has the hands of his great God holding him. I have no words.” Doug Gray of The Marshall Tucker Band
"If there were a southern rock/country/God-fearing patriot/Good old boy on Mt. Rushmore, Charlie Daniels likeness would be hammered, chiseled, and blasted onto it. We would follow him into battle. We would not follow him on stage. We couldn’t ... no one else could either ... ‘nuff said. Heaven has never rocked like its rockin’ right now. Charlie old friend, we’ll see you when we do. Rock on, friend." Larry Gatlin
Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.
A personal note from Jeremy Westby, former publicist for Daniels: “I had the pleasure of representing Charlie Daniels and his charity The Journey Home Project for many years. He headlined a concert at the Air Force Academy back in 1998 when I was road managing the opening act – the Clark Family Experience – who were managed by Jim and Sherman Halsey. I'll never forget how Charlie could shred that bow and keep the audience at the edge of their seats. I didn't have the pleasure of talking to him then, but as the years passed and my career came full-circle, I did – and then some. Charlie was much more than a client. He welcomed me and my family into his home on holidays, we had media junkets to New York and more wonderful experiences than I can count. To say he leaves an indelible mark on our community is an absolute understatement. I will forever cherish the moments we had, and being part of the team to help guide his induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame will never be forgotten!
My heart goes out to Hazel, David, Bebe, Paula, Angela, Charlie Jr. and the rest of The CDB. Love to you all.”
Official Statement from Country Music Hall of Fame
“Charlie Daniels was a reverential innovator. He was a fiddle-playing bandleader, like King of Country Music Roy Acuff. His music fused the immediacy of southern rock with the classic country storytelling that he heard as a child in Wilmington, North Carolina," said Kyle Young, CEO, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. "He brought new audiences to country music, pointing people to the sources even as he explored the edges. He was also a delight to be around, always with wife Hazel at his side. Just as fiddler Johnny did in the famous song, Charlie Daniels beat the devil.”
Steeped in musical traditions ranging from folk and bluegrass, to gospel, country and rock, Daniels was a pioneer in introducing southern rock sounds to mainstream country music. In the process, he brought millions of young people to a greater appreciation of their country music heritage, established musical alliances with a wide variety of artists in country and other music fields, and helped take country to deeper levels of American culture.
Critical to this achievement was his session work on albums Bob Dylan recorded in Nashville in the 1960s, including “Nashville Skyline.” Daniels also supported Ringo Starr on Starr’s “Beaucoups of Blues.” “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and the Charlie Daniels Band were featured in the landmark film “Urban Cowboy” (1980), a movie that helped ignite a boom in country music’s popularity and widened its audience across the nation.
According to the RIAA, Daniels’s lifetime record sales have exceeded 13.5 million units. When he was signed for $3 million by Epic Records in New York in 1976, the contract set a record for a Nashville act. Daniels has nine Gold, Platinum, or multi-Platinum albums. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” a Platinum single, was the Country Music Association Single of the Year in 1979 and earned the Charlie Daniels Band a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. The chart-topping country hit crossed over to become a Top 5 pop smash, as well. Daniels was named CMA Musician of the Year in 1979. The Charlie Daniels Band won CMA Instrumental Group of the Year Awards in 1979 and 1980. Daniels’s religious recordings won Dove Awards in 1995 and 1997. Daniels became a Grand Ole Opry cast member in 2008 at age 71.
Daniels has placed 33 singles on the Billboard country charts. In addition to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” his other Top 10 hits are “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye” (1986) and “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues” (1988). “Uneasy Rider,” one of his country chart-making singles, was also a Top 10 pop hit in 1973. Besides “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” other pop successes were his 1975 singles “The South’s Gonna Do It” and “Long Haired Country Boy,” both of which became staples of his live shows. He also charted in the pop Top 30 with “In America” (1980) and “Still in Saigon” (1982). His earliest songwriting success came in 1964 when his co-written “It Hurts Me” became a Top 30 pop hit for Elvis Presley.
Prior to gaining solo stardom, Daniels was a session musician (mostly in Nashville) for artists including Marty Robbins, Claude King, Flatt & Scruggs, Pete Seeger, Leonard Cohen, Al Kooper, Starr, and, most famously, Dylan. In addition to “Nashville Skyline,” Daniels can be heard on Dylan’s “Self Portrait” and “New Morning” albums of 1969-70. In 2014, he released the tribute album “Off the Grid–Doin’ It Dylan.”
Among Daniels’s most impressive accomplishments was the launch of his Volunteer Jam in 1974. These annual, multiartist, multigenre extravaganzas, sometimes stretching past 10 hours in length, became must-see musical spectacles for thousands.
A “Volunteer Jam Tour” including the Charlie Daniels Band, the Outlaws and the Marshall Tucker Band toured the U.S. in 2007. Subsequently, tours kept the tradition alive. A 2015 Volunteer Jam show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena captured the flavor of the 1970s events. The tradition was later revived, and Volunteer Jam XX, a benefit concert that raised money for The Journey Home, a nonprofit Daniels co-founded to help veterans, was held in 2018.
In recognition of his “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers,” Daniels was honored as a BMI Icon in 2005, and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.