Selling your soul to the devil is a popular motif in hillbilly folktales: this is my third post on a story featuring it. (Previously I covered Some Dark Holler by Luke Bauserman and We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix.) Charlie Daniels wrote the most famous take on trope of all. Although technically Johnny doesn’t sell his soul. He puts it up as stakes for a bet—and wins.
Which is the central conceit of the song. In the traditional take on the motif, the seller exchanges their soul for some ability. Johnny doesn’t need to. He already has the ability, and he uses it for his own gain (if no little risk). There is a lot of hubris there, but I still get goosebumps every time Johnny says, “I done told you once you son of a bitch, I’m the best that’s ever been.”
If you ever have a chance to see Charlie Daniels live, take it. I’ve still never seen a recording that remotely does justice to watching Daniels play The Devil Went Down to Georgia live, horsehair strings flying off the bow of his fiddle, someone standing right off stage ready to rush him another. Daniels ain’t young, but I saw him just ten years ago and he hadn’t slowed down.
The Devil Went Down to Georgia was originally recorded on Daniels’ album Million Mile Reflections and is on his greatest hits album A Decade of Hits (which is available to stream for free with Prime and is an AWESOME album entirely composed of kick ass songs).
You can find every video featured for Music Monday here.
Follow Hillbilly Highways on Facebook.