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Charlie Daniels RIP

You might remember a story about the devil going down to Georgia, looking for a soul to steal. He was in a bind, he was way behind, and he was looking to make a deal. He came across a young boy (name of Johnny) playing the violin (“sawing on a fiddle and playing it hot”). It turns out the devil is a fiddle player too, and he made a bet that he’s better at it than Johnny.

If the story is unfamiliar, and you want to hear what happens next, click here for a performance of the 1979 single “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band, from which the story and many of the words in the previous paragraph are taken. Charlie Daniels died earlier this week, aged 83. May he rest in peace. In memory of the man, and for only the third time in my life, I have been wearing an extra-large yellow Charlie Daniels t-shirt that I bought in Central Park nearly 18 years ago. Here’s what it looks like.


My wife and I had just arrived in New York City from London. It was late afternoon Manhattan time, around 9pm UK time. As we walked through Central Park we heard live music playing. We followed the sound and enjoyed a free concert being given by Charlie Daniels himself. It was nearly a year after 9/11 but as we would discover in the days ahead, the attack on the Twin Towers was still the main topic of conversation all over town. It was also the main subject of the show. After every song, or so it seemed, Charlie would tell us how much he loved New York City and the city’s inhabitants, how glad he was to be playing there again and how happy he was that all of us (“y’all”) had showed up. The pleasure was all ours.

Some years ago, I wrote this  unfinished piece about “Moments”, and thought that I had included that late afternoon Charlie Daniels show as one of them. It turns out that I hadn’t but I certainly meant to. That hour or two in Central Park in August 2002 is right up there, likely to make it into any theoretical Top 30 of Happy Moments. It might even be at #14, the highest chart position for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” here in the UK.



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