A Hero for Us All: Charlie Daniels
It was some 30 years ago when I first caught a Charlie Daniels concert. He was then back-up to the Marshall Tucker Band at the old Capital Centre outside Washington, D.C. --- and he stole the show! When he finshed his blazing set, the crowd erupted and had him brought back for an encore. When the Marshall Tucker Band finished their fine performance, it made no difference: the capacity crowd roared for more from Charlie Daniels.
It's a metaphor for his whole life. At a time when he should deservedly be disappearing into the shadows, he's back --- and the crowds are going wild once more. Despite recovering from a recent stroke, and nearing the ripe young age of 74, Charlie still plays about 100 concerts per year, among them Sean Hannity's "Freedom Concerts" to benefit the children of our fallen and disabled American soldiers through Oliver North's Freedom Alliance. So much has Charlie become ingrained into these Freedom Concerts, having played all eight of them this year, and in the effort to support our military worldwide, that this man deserves a tribute all his own.
He is, simply, America's unsung singing hero.
In recent years, I've come to know Charlie personally, enough so that I can confidently say that this man just isn't looking for tributes. You get the feeling that, at his age, he just doesn't need any.
He does it because he loves America, and because he wants to honor the military by performing at certain "unique and heartwarming" Freedom Concerts that entertain crowds full of "hard-working, God-fearing, patriotic folks, the salt-of-the-earth middle Americans who have fought our wars, raised good citizens and kept the wheels of progress moving forward in our Nation for over 200 years."
"Patriotism to me is always in style, but now --- especially now --- we need a little shot in the arm," he says.
He knows, too, that it can sometimes take one catastrophe to remind us of our common national bond: "9/11 was definitely a wake-up call to everyone about our country, and about how truly precious it is --- about what can and what did happen here. It never happened here before, and it showed us that we're a lot more vulnerable than we used to be. So, as we go along, we tend to forget about those pictures of the planes crashing into the Towers and all those things that went on that day."
In 2006, CBS Early Show weatherman Dave Price asked Charlie why at his age he was performing for soldiers in Iraq. Charlie's answer was precious: "I can't carry a gun, y'know; and I can't fight --- but I can darn sure carry a guitar and a pick, so that's why I'm here." On the same broadcast last year, Price recalled: "With all the great acts that are generous enough to give their time, when Charlie Daniels steps out in front of all those soldiers, sailors, and Marines, it's like ..... unreal."
The Charlie Daniels Band has performed for American troops throughout the world, not just in Iraq, but everywhere from Germany and Bosnia to South Korea and Uzbekistan. Their current album, Land That I Love, underlines a strong theme in Charlie's music. That's just one snapshot of his career, an apt description of a love affair with his country that he has repeatedly demonstrated through his music for over half-a-century.
He was welcomed into the Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame in 2008, and the Nashville Musicians' Hall of Fame the following year. The Opry honor was announced while he was in the middle of pickin' and fiddlin' at his annual Christmas 4 Kids Benefit Concert at the Ryman Auditorium. Martina McBride walked on stage carrying a small gift box which contained the invitation.
But Charlie Daniels has brought a much larger basket of gifts to this country and to its fighting men and women. He deserves every honor that comes his way. Those of us who consider Charlie Daniels a friend are honored in that way.
Well, needless to say, you can now number your humble Dragonmaster amongst Charlie Daniels' many friends and followers. One hopes that his musical legacy, and his unceasing passion for that which makes America great, will be shared with millions more Mortals now and in the years to come. So you follow this foolish old beetlehead's advice, dearests, and spend what is left of this day at http://www.charliedaniels.com --- and I am certain you will come away from that website with a proper, meaningful understanding of what America really means!