Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century

The Devil Went Down to Georgia

The Devil Went Down to Georgia is a 1979 song written and played by the Charlie Daniels Band. The song is a narrative about the Devil, who comes to Georgia to obtain human souls. The Devil stumbles upon Johnny, a young fiddle player, who is playing impressively. The Devil approaches Johnny, and informs him that he, too, plays the fiddle. He then challenges Johnny to a fiddle-playing contest, confident that he is more skillful than the young boy. The terms of the duel are that should Johnny win, he will be given a fiddle made of solid gold, but if the Devil wins he gains Johnny’s soul. Although Johnny fears that taking the Devil’s challenge might be sinful, he accepts proudly telling the Devil that the he will regret this challenge as Johnny is “the best there’s ever been”. As the duel begins, the Devil performs a sinister and powerful piece with the backing of demon musicians. Afterwards the Devil is fairly defeated when Johnny takes his turn to play. The Devil acknowledges being defeated and, gives Johnny a beautiful golden fiddle. Johnny boastfully tells the Devil that he is welcome any time to come back for a rematch.
The concept of a Faustian bargain and the devil as a trickster is presented in this song as the Devil challenges Johnny for his soul. Johnny has the opportunity to repent or rather decline the offer just like Faustus from Dr. Faustus but he accepts the duel motivated by his pride as “the best there’s ever been.” By presenting the reward of a golden fiddle and using Johnny’s pride, the Devil tricks Johnny into accepting the challenge. This Devil manifests his power as a good musician, even summoning demons backing up his performance nevertheless Johnny defeats him in the duel, earning the golden fiddle. Unlike in Dr. Faustus Johnny is victorious, defeating the Devil and keeping his soul, while Faustus is dragged down to hell once the time period of the contract is over. With is victory Johnny fits the motif of the Devil as a trickster by showing how mortals have the power to sub best the Devil in their own game.


2 responses

  1. Great post! I enjoyed this song. The story of man vs. devil through music and man wins. Your final sentence took my eyes “mortals have the power to sub best the Devil in their own game” because this quote defines everything that occurs when man must overcome his weaknesses to defeat the devil his his trickery.

    March 9, 2011 at 11:08 am

  2. I think this song can also be related to Paradise Lost. In Paradise Lost, Satan tempts Eve to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, which can here be represented by Satan challenging Johnny to a playing contest. Both Eve and Johnny give into Satan’s temptations even though they know it is against God’s desire for them to do so. Here however, unlike in Paradise Lost, mankind is victorious over Satan.

    April 27, 2011 at 9:43 am

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