Monday, July 6, 2020

Charlie Daniels dies at age 83, RIP

by Rod Williams - Charlie Daniels is dead at the age of 83. Rest in Peace.

Charlile Daniels holds a warm place in my heart. I am sorry to hear of his death. As I have gotten older, I have seen more and more people die off that I admired or respected. Some of them, I didn't know much more about them than that their music has spoken to my soul. Others, I knew their mind. Some, I admired for their impact on the world, others because, not even knowing me, they helped make it thorough the night. Ronald Reagan, I loved because, in my view, he was the person most responsible for ending Communism and throwing it onto the dust bin of history, liberating a third of the world from slavery, saving the rest of us from a destiny of living under totalitarian tyranny, and saving us from nuclear annihilation.

I know it is a mixed bag of chracters but in my Rest-in-Pease Hall of Fame is Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, George Jones, and now, Charlie Daniels. There may have been others that caused me a twinge of sadness and a moment of reflection, but for those I listed above, it was like I lost a good friend.

Those much younger than me may not know of Charlie Daniels other than that he was an aging country star. He was more. Charlie Daniels was pivotal. He let music out of its genre boxes and let people appreciate a range of musical styles. He introduced a generation to country music and they didn't know they liked country music.

I have always been a country music fan. I never related, except maybe for short periods hear and there, to the popular music of my era. Yea, the Beatles were OK, but I never loved The Beatles. I have always loved county music. However, I really do have an appreciation of almost all music. For a while I said I could appreciate all music except opera. Well, at one point about the mid 90's I was driving home and had pubic radio on because I always liked NPR news. Following the news, an opera performance came on and I did not change the station and when I got home, I realized I had been listening for maybe thirty minutes and I thought, I really enjoyed that. I then started listening to opera. I would go to the library and check out opera CDs and many of the CDs would have English translations of he lyrics. Country music and opera have a lot in common. Opera is often about ubrequited love, and unbelievable heartbreak and longing and maudlin pathos. I went through about a six months period where I explored and leaned about opera and learned to appreciate it.

I never did develop a love of the Ellla Fitzgerald-type improvisational scat signing or the instrumental progressive dissonant jazz, but I did develop an appreciation for lots of jazz. I really have developed an appreciation for almost all types of music, except for rap and I just can't get into it. So, I appreciate almost all kinds of music. Back to Charlie Daniels.

In the mid 70's I was attending college and loving it. I was late to go to college, I never had an adult to encourage me and somehow thought that college was for a different class of people. You might say I had an inferiority complex. I did enroll in college thanks to the GI bill and learned that I was a whole lot smarter than I had given myself credit for and loved learning. I was married at the time and then out of the blue, my wife left me and filed for divorce. I was devastated. I took it hard. I had to move out of my home and moved closer to college.

Money was tight and I got by on the GI bill and working odd jobs at day labor and working part-time as needed with a moving company. I had to live as cheaply as possible and rented an apartment between a red-neck couple and a bunch of guy whose hosehold composition was constantly changing but who were worthless red-neck hard rock fans and dope heads. Living in close quarters, I became friends with a class of people I had never known before. I had known poor people, but these were a subset of poor people that you might call "white trash." During this time living among degenerate poverty-stricken, hard-rock-loving, petty thieves and losers and dealing with heartbreak and lonliness  and somstimes experiencing bouts of depression, I was also growing intellecutrally, exhilarated by learning, meeting new friends in addition to my neighbors, exploring new ideas, and having new adventures. I studied harder than I had to.  It was rewarding to get A's.  It boosted by ego and if I was going to argue with my teachers, I had to know what I was talking about. Durning this tremultous period, which also included some excessive drinking and use of pot, Charlie Daniels provided the soundtrack to my life.

I was always conservative politically, but during this time I became somewhat of an  individualist, that some might classify as neo-hippy. I wore blue swede cowboys boots and had longish hair. I was active in College Republicans but was not the chamber-of-commerce-in-waiting type Republican. I started a chapter of Young American for Freedom on campus and wrote a regular editorial for the student newspaper. I was kind of a trouble maker and aruged with my professors. I never considered myself a libertarian but was at this time, maybe a "libertarian-Republican?" Someone once said a libertarian is a Republican who smokes dope. I was kind of that person.

 About this time in the mid-70's Southern Rock became a popular form of music. For those who may not be familiar, it was a mix of blues, country, and rock with a defiant attitude and an expresson of regional pride. I guess the heyday was about 1972 to about 1982 or so.  I loved the music. It spoke to me. The genre was kind of broad and ranged from ZZ Top and 38 special to Credence Clearwarter to Charlie Daniels. I still loved County music, but I was listening more and more to Southern Rock. I tended toward the country end of the spectrum and in addition to Charlie Daniels I loved Wet Willie and the Marshal Tucker band. I had albums by these artist and wore them out.

Charlie Daniels really spoke to me. My favorite albums for a long time was Fire on the Mountain. I still probably know the words to every song on the album. My favorite song on the album was "Long Haired County Boy." If you listen to it, it has kind of a defiant populist libertarianism to the lyrics. Here are the lyrics.:

People say I'm no good and crazy as a loon
'Cause I get stoned in the morning
And get drunk in the afternoon
Kinda like my old blue tick hound
I like to lay around in the shade
And I ain't got no money but I damn sure got it made

'Cause I ain't asking nobody for nothin'
If I cant get it on my own
If you don't like the way I'm livin'
You just leave this long-haired country boy alone

Preacher man talking on T.V.
Puttin' down the rock and roll
Wants me to send a donation
'Cause he's worried about my soul
He said Jesus walked on the water
And I know that it's true
But sometimes I think that preacherman
Would like to do a little walking too

But I ain't asking nobody for nothin'
If I cant get it on my own
If you don't like the way I'm livin'
You just leave this long-haired country boy alone

A poor girl wants to marry
And a rich girl wants to flirt
A rich man goes to college
And a poor man goes to work
A drunkard wants another drink of wine
And a politician wants a vote
I don't want much of nothin' at all
But I will take another toke

But I ain't asking nobody for nothin'
If I can't get it on my own
If you don't like the way I'm livin'
You just leave this long-haired country boy alone

After college, I moved to Nashville and for years attended the annual Charlie Daniel's Jams. These were events I looked forward to all year long. These were happenings; concerts that lasted from about six in the evening to the next morning. Daniels opened the shows to rousing applause by saying, "Ain't it great to be alive and be in Tennessee." It was exhilarating.

These were rowdy affairs. At this time, the authorities did not even try to stop people from smoking dope at concerts and pepple would sneak in booze and the occational fire cracker would explode.  While the majority of music was "southern rock," the guest included everyone form Roy Acuff to Izaak Pearlman to James Brown. James Brown was a treat. I know now that seeing a Confederate battle flag causes woke progressives to have a meltdown. Charlie Daniels Jam's were peppered with people waving Confederate flags. James Brown performed and didn't let it bother him. Brown came on stage wearing a big cape, and made a big production of his appearance- not a modest bone in his body. He preformed and preformed and sweated and was energetic. He refused to stop performing and faked having to be dragged off stage. The Charlie Daniels Confederate-battle-flag-waving-crowd loved James Brown!

After Southern Rock faded as a genre, some bands began being marketed as rock and some just faded away or hung on, on the strength of their former glory without a musical home. Charlie Daniels became part of country music again from which he originated and still toured and recorded up until his death. Daniels became a vocal proponent of the conservative and christian points of view in later years. His website contained an editorial page, called "soap box" where he pontificated on the issues of the day. He we a patriot and an avid proponent of veterans. I was pleased to see him become an outspoken conservative but it would have been fine with me if he would have left the lyrics alone that said he would, "take another toke."

I am saddened by the passing of Charlie Daniels. Rest in Peace.

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