"The Devil Went Down to Georgia"
Single by Charlie Daniels Band
from the album Million Mile Reflections
B-side"Rainbow Ride"
ReleasedMay 21, 1979
Genre
Length3:34
LabelEpic
Songwriter(s)
  • Charlie Daniels
  • Tom Crain
  • "Taz" DiGregorio
  • Fred Edwards
  • Charles Hayward
  • James W Marshall
Producer(s)John Boylan
Charlie Daniels Band singles chronology
"Trudy"
(1978)
"The Devil Went Down to Georgia"
(1979)
"Mississippi"
(1979)

"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.[3]

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" released on Clements' self-titled 1975 album on which Charlie Daniels played guitar. 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., recitation), and tell the story of a young man named Johnny, in a variant on the classic deal with the Devil. The performances of the Devil and Johnny are played as instrumental bridges. The song was the band's biggest hit, reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100, prevented from further chart movement by "After The Love Has Gone" by Earth, Wind and Fire and "My Sharona" by The Knack.[4]

Content

The song is an uptempo bluegrass song about the Devil's failure to gain a young man's soul through a fiddle-playing contest. The song begins as a disappointed Devil arrives in Georgia, apparently "way behind" on stealing souls, when he comes upon a young man named Johnny who is playing a fiddle, and quite well. Out of desperation, the Devil, who claims to also be a fiddle player, wagers a fiddle of gold against Johnny's soul to see who is the better fiddler. Although Johnny believes taking the Devil's bet might be a sin, he fearlessly accepts, confidently boasting that "I'm the best that's ever been."

The Devil plays first, backed by a band of demon musicians. When finished, Johnny compliments him and takes his own turn, in which he references, but does not perform, four old-time songs:

(the latter two were lyrical references):

Realizing he has been defeated, the devil lays his golden fiddle at Johnny's feet. Johnny then invites the devil to "c'mon back if y'ever wanna try again" before repeating his claim to be "the best that's ever been."

Reception

Cash Box praised the "engaging narrative story line" and said the song has "thundering piano," "screaming fiddle work," "pounding drums and screeching guitar."[6]

Censorship

Johnny's final boast, from the album version of the song, goes, "I done told you once, you son of a bitch, I'm the best that's ever been". But to accommodate radio airplay for Country and Top 40 formats, Daniels changed the lyric for the single release to, "'Cause I told you once, you son of a gun", though AOR stations continued to use the unaltered version.

Musical references

The ballad's story is a derivative of the traditional deal 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 (1925), that I had in high school."[7][8]

Personnel

Parodies and covers

"The Devil Went Down to Georgia"
Single by Nickelback feat. Dave Martone
ReleasedAugust 14, 2020 (2020-08-14)
Recorded2005
Length3:58
LabelSelf-released
Songwriter(s)
  • Charlie Daniels
  • Tom Crain
  • "Taz" DiGregorio
  • Fred Edwards
  • Charles Hayward
  • James W Marshall
Producer(s)Nickelback
Nickelback feat. Dave Martone singles chronology
"Song on Fire"
(2018)
"The Devil Went Down to Georgia"
(2020)

Chart performance

The original version of the song spent fourteen weeks on the Hot Country Singles charts in 1979, peaking at number 1 and holding the position for one week. It spent two weeks at a peak of number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.[27] The single was certified Platinum by the RIAA on December 20, 1989, for sales of over two million copies in the United States.[28] In 2003, the song was ranked at #69 on CMT's 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music, and #5 on CMT's 20 Greatest Southern Rock Songs in 2006. Since it became available as a download in the digital era, it has also sold 2.49 million digital copies in the US as of November 2019.[29] In June 1998, Epic Records re-released the song to country radio, but accidentally sent out the version in which the line "son of a bitch" was uncensored. This error was quickly corrected, and the song re-entered the country charts at number 62 for the chart dated June 20, 1998.[30] It spent seven weeks on the chart and peaked at number 60.[27]

Certifications

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[43] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[44] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Sequel

"The Devil Comes Back to Georgia"
Single by Mark O'Connor featuring Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt
from the album Heroes
B-side"This Can't Be Love"
ReleasedSeptember 14, 1993
GenreBluegrass, country, country rock
Length4:13
LabelEpic
Songwriter(s)
  • Charlie Daniels
  • Tom Crain
  • "Taz" DiGregorio
  • Fred Edwards
  • Charles Hayward
  • James W Marshall
Producer(s)Mark O'Connor and Jim Ed Norman

In 1993, a sequel to the song, "The Devil Comes Back to Georgia", was released by master violinist Mark O'Connor on his album Heroes. The song featured Daniels on fiddle, with Johnny Cash as the narrator, Marty Stuart as Johnny, and Travis Tritt as the devil. The song peaked at #54 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in 1994.

In the sequel, the devil, still furious ten years after being beaten, decides to take up Johnny's challenge to "c'mon back if y'ever wanna try again". Johnny is now grown with a wife and infant son, and the devil believes that Johnny's sinful pride will be his undoing, so he takes back the golden fiddle, forcing Johnny to practice with his old fiddle before their rematch- the same one he played when he defeated the devil.

Though the song reiterates Johnny's bold claim that he is "the best that's ever been", the lyrics do not reveal who won the rematch. But in the video, the devil is shown defeated by Johnny again.

See also

References

  1. ^ Bluegrass Unlimited. 40. Bluegrass Unlimited. 2005. p. 71.
  2. ^ Heller, Marsha (July 7, 2020). "What you need to know July 7". KFVS-TV. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  3. ^ "Million Mile Reflections - Charlie Daniels,The Charlie Daniels Band | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel: "The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits", p. 92, ISBN 0-8230-7518-4
  5. ^ a b "Ida Red lyrics chords | Bob Wills". Classic-country-song-lyrics.com. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  6. ^ "CashBox Singles Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. June 23, 1979. p. 18. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  7. ^ "Charlie Daniels : Songwriter Interviews". Songfacts.com. March 30, 2007. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  8. ^ "Forty and Forward: The Devil Went Down to Georgia".
  9. ^ "The Charlie Daniels Band – Million Mile Reflections (1979, Vinyl)". Discogs. Retrieved June 21, 2021.
  10. ^ "The Levellers - One Way (CD)". Discogs.com. September 28, 2012. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  11. ^ "David Allan Coe - Devil went down to jamaica (the complete song)". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  12. ^ "Muppet Songs: The Devil Went Down to Georgia". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  13. ^ "K.M.C. Kru - The Devil Came Up to Michigan (CD)". Discogs.com. September 28, 2012. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  14. ^ "Steve Ouimette - Radio King". Radio King. Retrieved December 27, 2020.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 3, 2012. Retrieved June 15, 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ Annear, Steve (June 13, 2013). "Rate This Boston Accent and Anti-Yankees Music Video". Boston Magazine. Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  17. ^ "The Devil Went Down to Georgia by Michelle Lambert (Official Video)". July 25, 2015. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021.
  18. ^ "The Devil Went Down To Georgia". Youtube.com. September 19, 2015. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021.
  19. ^ "Blues Traveler - Devil Went Down To Georgia". YouTube. February 24, 2007. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  20. ^ "Spawn Went Down to Georgia". Youtube.com. December 20, 2011. Archived from the original on February 1, 2013.
  21. ^ "Primus - The Devil Went Down To Georgia". Youtube.com. June 16, 2009. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021.
  22. ^ "Nature of Rebel Minds | Rock from Winston Salem, NC". Reverbnation.com.
  23. ^ "Nature Of Rebel Minds-The Devil Went Down To Georgia(OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO)". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021.
  24. ^ "Korn Unveils Cover of The Charlie Daniels Band's 'The Devil Went Down to Georgia'". Billboard.com. June 28, 2020.
  25. ^ "Frog Leap Studios - The Devil Went Down To Georgia (metal cover by Leo Moracchioli)". YouTube. July 17, 2020. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  26. ^ ""Devil Comes Back to Georgia" feat. Mark O'Connor with Daniels, Cash, Tritt and Marty Stuart". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  27. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-89820-177-2.
  28. ^ "American single certifications – Charlie Daniel Band – The Devil Went Down to Georgia". Recording Industry Association of America.
  29. ^ Bjorke, Matt (November 6, 2019). "Top 30 Digital Country Downloads Chart". Roughstock. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  30. ^ Jessen, Wade (June 20, 1998). "Country Corner". Billboard. Vol. 110 no. 25. p. 34.
  31. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 82. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  32. ^ "Irish Singles Chart – Search for song". Irish Recorded Music Association. Archived from the original on June 2, 2009. Retrieved July 6, 2011.
  33. ^ "(({artist))} – The Devil Went Down to Georgia". Top 40 Singles.
  34. ^ a b "Charlie Daniels Chart History (Hot Country Songs)". Billboard.
  35. ^ "Charlie Daniels Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  36. ^ "Charlie Daniels Chart History (Adult Contemporary)". Billboard.
  37. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 9/08/79". tropicalglen.com. Archived from the original on February 14, 2015. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  38. ^ "Kent Music Report No 288 – 31 December 1979 > National Top 100 Singles for 1979". Kent Music Report, via Imgur.com. Retrieved December 9, 2019.
  39. ^ Canada, Library and Archives (July 17, 2013). "Image : RPM Weekly". bac-lac.gc.ca. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  40. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1979/Top 100 Songs of 1979". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
  41. ^ "Hot Country Songs – Year-End 1979". Billboard. Retrieved July 17, 2021.
  42. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1979". tropicalglen.com. Archived from the original on July 13, 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
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  44. ^ "American single certifications – Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down to Georgia". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved October 16, 2020.