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"The Devil Went Down to Georgia"

The history and significance of one of the greatest southern story-telling songs.

Mitch Brown

on 19 October 2012

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Transcript of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"

The Charlie Daniels Band and the Preservation of Southern Culture through Story-telling. "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" The Story This section of the song shows the conflict in the story about the Devil and Johnny. The Devil is a motif throughout southern stories, and he serves as the cause of the conflict in this story. Many southern stories are about great triumph or horrible defeat. So, at this point in the song, the listener does not yet know whether Johnny will win or not. "Johnny, rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hard.
'Cause Hell's broke loose in Georgia and the Devil deals the cards.
And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold,
But if you lose the devil gets your soul." "The Devil opened up his case and he said, 'I'll start this show.'
And fire flew from his fingertips as he rosined up his bow.
And he pulled the bow across the strings and it made an evil hiss.
And a band of demons joined in and it sounded something like this." When the Devil began to play the fiddle, there was no melody. The Devil and his demons were just making noise. According to the writer, Charlie Daniels, "It's just a bunch of noise. Just confusion and stuff. And of course Johnny's saying something. You can't beat the Devil without the Lord." "The Devil bowed his head because he knew that he'd been beat.
And he laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny's feet.
Johnny said, 'Devil, just come on back if you ever wanna try again,
'Cause I've told you once--you son of a bitch--I'm the best there's ever been.'" As we've seen, the preservation of southern culture is very important to Southerners. One of the ways this can be done is through the art of story-telling. The Charlie Daniels Band does this within a song, using southern instruments such as the fiddle to emphasize the culture embedded within the story. Southerners innately retell accounts of past events within their precious and prized culture. The triumph over the Devil comes from the passion Johnny uses in his fiddling. The story ends with any fear that he ever had being purged from him. The band used the story to bring out the Southern culture and preserve the little known facts about folk music. References Sources
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/afc/afccc/soldiersjoy/ Images
1 http://4.bp.blogspot.com/__7KWS1A_Af0/TENXxNFqIVI/AAAAAAAAAVY/aZxg3ozgbqg/s1600/devil-with-fiddle.jpg
2 http://www.seankenan.com/Assets/images/FYFindexlayout_06.gif
3 http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_0DwAprDsc7k/SbaZbjn8JrI/AAAAAAAAHNg/rBYl3EQnIpE/s400/devil.jpg "When the Devil finished, Johnny said, 'Well, you're pretty good ol' son,
But sit down in that chair right there and let me show you how it's done.'

'Fire on the Mountain.' Run, boys, run!
The Devil's in the house of the rising sun;
Chicken's in the bread pan picking out dough.
Granny, does your dog bite? No, child, no." This combination of songs and rhymes speaks to the culture that Johnny is bringing out through his fiddle. "Fire on the mountain, run boys run" refers to a bluegrass fiddle song that originated in the early 19th centruy. The second line refers to an American folk song, "The House of the Rising Sun." Setting of this song is New Orleans in a house with prostitution and gambling. The Devil being there only makes the situation worse, like the situation Johnny is in. The last two lines refer to a folk rhyme used in the classic fiddle song "Soldier's Joy." The connection back to American culture is an integral part of Johnny's music. It is also part of the story-telling method used by Daniels. He is using the American culture to help Johnny succeed in his endeavor and to tell a larger story than Johnny's. "The Devil went down to Georgia. He was lookin' for a soul to steal.
He was in a bind 'cause he was way behind. He was willing to make a deal
When he came across this young man sawin' on a fiddle and playin' it hot.
And the Devil jumped upon a hickory stump and said 'Boy, let me tell you what.'" The Devil is introduced as the challenger and is the religious figure in the story. Religion has always been a reoccurring theme in southern storytelling. The combination of the Devil's arrogance and predicament led him to make a bet with someone who had melody on his side. Johnny took his bet, saying he's "the best there's ever been." "'I bet you didn't know it, but I'm a fiddle player, too.
And if you'd care to take a dare I'll make a bet with you.
Now you play a pretty good fiddle, boy, but give the Devil his due.
I'll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul 'cause I think I'm better than you.'" In this classic "deal with the Devil" situation, Johnny has to overcome the Devil's ability to have a band of demons playing behind him. The contrast between the fairness of the two fiddlers is one of the main lessons in the story. 1 2 3
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