God Went Down to Charlie Daniels

Hillbilly Smiles

by Jeph Johnson


The hippy uprising of the turbulent sixties found songs like Merle Haggard's unapologetic "Okie From Muskogee", SSgt Barry Sadler's war chant "Ballad of the Green Berets" charting. Not to mention Victor Lindberg's God-awful spoken-word advisory "Open Letter to My Teenage Son" which celebrated hawkish patriotism while decrying the liberal anti-war movement as a bunch of "pot smokers".

By the early 1970s, the bubblegum pop craze was upon us. The television show He-Haw debuted and country singers opted for more cornball lyrics like songs about smuggling cars from the factory and building them do it yourself "one piece at a time." Novelty singer like Ray Stevens and C.W. McCall emerged and ushered in the novelties like nude streaking and CB Radios.

But that damn Vietnam War was still widening the generation gap. Helped along exponentially by war's uncanny knack for literally preventing new generations from occurring.

But something eventually happened. Anti-war sentiment (perhaps due to this bubblegum revolution) became too strong. So strong, in fact, even a Republican President broke down and pulled the troops out.

Amidst this unrest, a country fiddle player named Charlie Daniels jumped on board the peacenik bandwagon and performed a few controversial songs like 1973's "Long Haired Country Boy" and 1975's "Uneasy Rider."

On "Long Haired Country Boy" Charlie Daniels pretty much tells everyone he doesn't give a fuck about anything else. Just "leave him the fuck alone and let him smoke his pot in peace."

On 1975's "Uneasy Rider" he mentions driving and "tokin' on a number" then walks into a bar only to be accosted by a bunch of rednecks. The only way he feels he can escape a fight with these judgmental pricks is by sending one of the dudes to the ground by kicking him just below the knee.

Why were these rednecks so upset? Well these cretins happened to spot the peace sign on Charlie's car outside, and when he came inside, they noticed his long hair when he tipped his hat.

After kicking the guy, in order to save himself and avoid further confrontation, Charlie needs to make sure someone else is perceived as "less redneck" or else they'll beat the crap out of him!

Operation: assign liberal blame.

He quickly claims the guy he kicked (who presumably is still laying there clutching his shin) is really "an undercover FBI agent who tears off Republican bumper stickers, votes for Democrats and whose friends include long haired, hippy-type, pinko *fags* sent to infiltrate the KKK."

Whew! Charlie sings it with a LOT better delivery of course. Remember this is the guy who rapped "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" before rap was even invented, so he knows how to tell a story!

Despite his vulgar decision to use words like "fag", nothing he has said is considered too offensive yet because he's on the side of the liberals here. His use of the slur is questionably warranted and, because it is an exaggeration, it makes the song a little funny.

Unfortunately this is where the humor stops.

Let's take a closer look at how these earlier songs have taken on a disturbing life of their own since Charlie has "grown closer to the Lord."

Apparently Charlie Daniels started "giving a fuck" (or as a short-haired country boy might say, he started "giving a dern") shortly after the Iranian hostage crisis when Ronald Reagan took office by writing jingoistic songs like "In America".

But a mere sixteen years later Charlie's Christian revival had turned him into the very redneck he had railed against!

If the song "(What This World Needs is) A Few More Rednecks" isn't proof enough, I have a few more examples of his Jekyll and Hyde hypocrisy.

At the dawn of the 1990s he has devolved from early '70s long haired pot smoking  peace loving hippy liberal to a "Simple Man" of the Bush-era conservative South. What were once redneck exaggerations we all chuckled at, have now become intolerance and bigotry ingrained in the new redneck personification of Charlie, obviously ordained by God himself!

But Charlie, it's supposed to be satire!

Did you not take notice of the redneck shtick successfully demonstrated by Jeff Foxworthy in a much less threatening (and more entertaining) manner four years after you cried out for more rednecks?

One quick glance at the lyrics from 1989's "Simple Man" illustrates Mr. Daniels' hypocritical insanity:

"Now if I had my way with people sellin' dope I'd take a big tall tree and a short piece of rope, I'd hang 'em up high and let 'em swing 'til the sun goes down."

Charlie, if you want to lynch everyone dealing drugs, perhaps you should start with your own 37-year-old self of 1973.

Yeah, Charlie was "over thirty" back when we weren't supposed to be trusting anyone over thirty! We should have known then, but we trusted you because you were still inhaling the cannabis smoke.

What the Hell happened?

Maybe Charlie has some insight. Let us go once again to the source:

"Well, you know what's wrong with the world today? People done gone and put their Bibles away. They're living by the law of the jungle not the law of the land. The good book says it so I know it's the truth: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth..."

So let me get this straight, selling an uneasy rider a joint warrants being lynched? The Biblical edict against such things isn't even THAT harsh! In fact to those who distribute recreational drugs it is sort of Christ-like. Jesus himself turned water into wine for the sole purpose of making a wedding "more recreationally festive."

Well Charlie's sense of equal value has always been a little skewed. Remember, this is the same guy who at one time was willing to wager a fiddle of gold against his very soul!

The contradictions continue from Charlie when we notice him contradicting himself in the very same song:

"I've got a way to put an end to all that mess, just take them rascals out in the swamp, put 'em on their knees and tie 'em to a stump. Let the rattlers and the bugs and the alligators do the rest."

It seems to me as though that's about as close to the "law of the jungle" and as far away from the "law of the land" (which prohibits vigilante justice) as anyone can get!

Charlie apparently likes getting royalties from both sides of the ideological aisle as those songs are still available in his catalog. He's even updated "Uneasy Rider" to "Uneasy Rider '88."

This time the threat in this homophobic song is much more dangerous. Instead of getting the shit beat out of them, the threat is now their own sexuality!

They've inadvertently stumbled into a bar where orange-haired punk rock singers entertain transsexual gay men with songs about suicide.

"We walked through the door and the place was jammed, the lights were low they had a punk rock band and some orange haired feller singing about suicide..."

Because everyone knows by 1988 punk was all the rage and disco was dead to most male homosexuals. And do I even need to tell you how much gay men like listening to songs about suicide when they're on the prowl for redneck bears sporting Duck Dynasty beards?

Like some strange mash-up of Frankie Valli and Steve Perry "Walk Like a Man"/"Walks Like a Lady", Charlie Daniels sings:

"He looked like a girl but he talked like a guy, he had lipstick on and mascara in his eyes and everybody in that place looked just about like him. I said Jim this ain't our kind of bar, let's just go on out and get back in the car..."

He mentions wigs, lipstick and mascara hiding "somethin' missin'" much like the Scorpions had done with their song "He's a Woman, She's a Man" back around the time the first "Uneasy Rider" was written.

And he channels the worst spirit of the innocuous Kinks song "Lola" by concluding "Uneasy Rider '88" with the pledge to go "back where the women are women and the men are men."

And how is it that Charlie, (a bear himself) can say to the cross-dressing man:

"If you don't get your paw off me, I'm gonna locate your nose around the other side of your head"

Later on in the song Charlie admits that at least one of these men is "beautiful", so why the bestial language?

And in a response I am sure all gay cross-dressing men use right before getting assaulted, his final words to Charlie were:

"I love it when you get that fire in your eye."

It's a miracle Charlie isn't lisping the lyrics!

So the man whose only crime is that he put his hand on Charlie's knee gets laid out, and we have to presume his nose gets relocated to the other side of his head.

Thank goodness it was just his nose, otherwise it becomes increasingly difficult to apply the lipstick and mascara I assume Charlie Daniels believes all liberal homosexuals use.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

2015 (updated 2020 upon Charlie Daniels death)

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