July 7 2011 12:00 AM

The country star talks death panels, war, Obama, health care — everything but music


While he’s widely known for the 1979 hit song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” singer, guitarist and fiddler Charlie Daniels has been playing country music and Southern rock since the 1950s.

In that time he’s continuously toured the world, writing a song for Elvis Presley (“It Hurts Me”), recording with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, releasing 32 studio albums and selling millions of records.

In January 2010 he suffered a minor stroke, but was back on the road playing shows in no time.

You might expect the 74-year-old Grand Ole Opry inductee would be prepared to reminisce about the old days in the music industry. However, devoted fans of Daniels also know he is outspoken — to say the least — when it comes to politics in America.

Asking Daniels about his new pro-troops song “Let ‘Em Win or Bring ‘Em Home” opened the floodgates to a barrage of topics the Tennessee-based musician has on his mind — none of which involve music.

“‘Let ‘Em Win or Bring ‘Em Home’ — that’s the latest thing we’ve recorded,” Daniels said from a hotel in Petaluma, Calf., where he was set to play a show that night. “It’s about the present-day military situation and the way I feel about it.”

From there, Daniels unveiled what he feels is holding back American troops in the Middle East.

“We haven’t finished a war in 50 years or longer,” he said. “Not since the second World War have we finished something we started. We have all of these rules and regulations. Instead of the war being left to the military people and troops who are capable of winning these wars, we tie the hands of our troops. They have the personnel, equipment and technology to do it. But they can’t do it because they aren’t getting what they ask for.”

One thing is clear, Daniels isn’t happy with the Obama administration, even hinting at the possibility of what has been dubbed “death panels.”

“Nobody but God has the right to decide when somebody’s life ends — no president, no review board, no congressman — nobody,” Daniels said. “Life is sacred. It was given by God and it has to be taken away by God. That’s my feeling on it. Anyone who presumes they can take God’s place is way off the radar in my book.”

While he’s not on board with Obama, Daniels made it clear he was neither left-wing nor right-wing, preferring not to just pick a side and stick with it.

“I’m not on the political spectrum,” Daniels said. “I’m an issue-by-issue, candidate-by-candidate person. I vote for who I feel will do the best job. I don’t care if they’re Democrat or Republican: I’m American. I think we get too involved in that stuff. I know good people who are so hung up in this left/right, or Republican/Democrat thing. Everybody is not right or wrong all the time.”

He did make it clear he feels President Obama’s health care plan will be the end of America as we know it.

“This thing will not work,” he said. “It will destroy the economy of the United States if implemented in its present form. Mark my words. I may not live to see it — I’m going to be 75 years old — but you remember an old man told you one time, if this thing gets implemented, you watch what happens.”

Among other complaints the multi-platinum selling musician voiced about the war, he also said he feels our government is holding out for something he thinks will never happen.

“Afghanistan is not going to stand on its own. Iraq is not going to stand on its own,” he said. “Afghanistan is made up of too many factions. These people are not cohesive, they are not going to go together and support a central government — that’s not in their DNA. This warlord is in charge of this section, that warlord is in charge of that section, and that’s just the way it’s going to be.

“We’re not going to be able to accomplish what we’re telling the world we’re going to accomplish over there.”

Daniels said politics and fighting wars should be entirely separate entities. He said he feels mixing the two is like “putting human lives on the chess board.”

“A politician who’s never had any military experience can’t tell a seasoned, very capable military leader what he needs to do,” he said. “They look at it from the political point of view: ‘how can I make points with this country,’ or ‘how can I get votes,’ or ‘how can I please this section of my party’ — this, that or the other thing. The general is looking at it like, ‘We need to win this war. We need to protect our troops. We need to do this to get it over with.”

Then, after barely hesitating between words for over 13 minutes, Daniels came full circle and connected all of the theories he has on war back to his new song “Let ‘Em Win or Bring ‘Em Home.”

“It’s people trying to tell other people, who have better abilities, how to do their jobs. That’s the way I look at it, and that’s what the song is about.”

Charlie Daniels Band

Common Ground Music Festival

Wednesday, July 13

Gates open at 5:30 p.m.

Adado Riverfront Park

Single-day ticket $35; seven-day festival ticket $89

Available at Star Tickets outlets, at the Common Ground office, 901 N. Washington Ave., Lansing

(800) 585-3737