|"The Devil Went Down to Georgia"|
|Single by Charlie Daniels|
|from the album Million Mile Reflections|
|Released||June 23, 1979|
|Genre||Southern rock, Country rock|
|Writer(s)||Charlie Daniels, Tom Crain, "Taz" DiGregorio, Fred Edwards, Charles Hayward, James W. Marshall|
|Charlie Daniels singles chronology|
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.
The song was the band's biggest pop hit, reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was featured in the movie Urban Cowboy. The choreographer of the film, Patsy Swayze claims that she set the tempo to the song. "How fast can you dance it?," Daniels said. "How fast can you play it?," Swayze said in return.
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 decides to challenge 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 believes 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.
See: Faust legend.
The narrative is a derivative of the traditional pact with the Devil motif. Charlie Daniels has stated in interviews, "I don’t know where it came from, but it just did. Well, I think I might know where it came from, it may have come from an old poem called 'The Mountain Whippoorwill' that Stephen Vincent Benét wrote many, many years ago , that I had in high school. Either that or Jersey."
Johnny's song itself is an amalgamation of traditional tunes:
|U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks||1|
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||3|
|U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks||30|
|Canadian RPM Country Tracks||1|
|Canadian Singles Chart||5|
A sequel to the song, titled "The Devil Comes Back to Georgia," was recorded by Daniels and fiddle player Mark O'Connor in 1993, featuring guest performances by Travis Tritt (as the devil), Marty Stuart (as Johnny) and Johnny Cash as the narrator. In the sequel, Johnny has grown into a man, who is married and has a child. Hoping to take advantage of Johnny's sinful pride, the Devil challenges him to a rematch. The Devil snatches the Golden Fiddle from Johnny, and demands that he practice with his old fiddle to play against him. The ending does not state the victor outright, though the music video suggests Johnny won, as does the line "Johnny's still the best that's ever been". The song can be found on Mark O'Connor's album, Heroes.
by Mel Tillis
|Billboard Hot Country Singles
August 25, 1979
by Willie Nelson and Leon Russell
by Eddie Rabbitt
|RPM Country Tracks
September 8-September 15, 1979
"'Til I Can Make it On My Own"
by Kenny Rogers and Dottie West