The Charlie Daniels Band: “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”

ON THIS DATE (33 YEARS AGO)
May 21, 1979 – The Charlie Daniels Band: “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” b/w “Rainbow Ride” (Epic 8-50700) 45 single is released in the US.
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is a song written and performed by the Charlie Daniels Band and released on their 1979 album Million Mile Reflections. The song was the band’s biggest pop hit, reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song is written in the key of D minor. Vassar Clements originally wrote the basic melody an octave lower, in a tune called “Lonesome Fiddle Blues”. The Charlie Daniels Band moved it up an octave and put words to it. The song’s verses are closer to being spoken rather than sung (i.e. chant or Sprechstimme), and tell the story of a boy named Johnny, who one day is challenged by the devil to a battle of fiddle-playing: If Johnny triumphs, he claims a golden fiddle; losing the battle will forfeit his soul. The performances of Satan and Johnny are played as instrumental bridges. It is featured in the 1980 movie Urban Cowboy, whose choreographer, Patsy Swayze, claims that she set the song’s tempo. “How fast can you dance it?” Daniels asked. “How fast can you play it?” Swayze replied.
The song is a narrative about the Devil, who comes to Georgia to procure souls. He has not obtained any recently, and is willing to “make a deal” out of desperation. He happens upon a young fiddle player named Johnny, who is minding his own business and playing impressively. The Devil approaches Johnny, and informs him that he, too, plays the fiddle. He then challenges Johnny to a fiddle-playing contest, confident that he is more skillful than the young boy. The terms of the duel are that should Johnny win, he will be given a fiddle made of solid gold, but should the Devil triumph, he gains Johnny’s soul. Although he fears that taking the Devil’s bet might be sinful, Johnny accepts the terms, proudly telling the Devil that the Devil will regret it as Johnny is “the best there’s ever been”. The duel commences, with the Devil performing a sinister and powerful piece with the backing of demon musicians. Despite this, the Devil is squarely defeated when Johnny takes his turn to perform. The Devil acknowledges being bested and, true to his word, the Devil presents Johnny with a beautiful golden fiddle. Johnny boastfully informs the Devil that he is welcome anytime to come back for a rematch. The original line in the song “I told you once, you son of a bitch, I’m the best that’s ever been” was altered to “I told you once, you son of a gun, I’m the best that’s ever been” for airplay on country music radio.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under The Charlie Daniels Band, The Devil Went Down To Georgia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s