Culture

Daniel Johnston Reportedly Dead at 58

Daniel Johnston Reportedly Dead at 58”

The outsider singer, songwriter and visual artist Daniel Johnston has died at age 58. "We've been struggling for several years with Daniel's health, and his frequent and lengthy stays in hospitals dampened his creative efforts, but throughout he continued to draw and write songs", he wrote. Tom Waits, Yo La Tengo, Bright Eyes and many other bands covered Johnston's achingly honest songs of alienation.

Called everything from an eccentric genius to a childlike loner, Johnston made his bones and his reputation for oblique, yet touching lyrics, yelping vocals and oddly contagious melodies (for instance: "Speeding Motorcycle") with a handful of homemade cassettes (such as "More Songs of Pain", "Yip/Jump Music", and "Hi, How Are You") and almost 20 albums.

Johnston emerged as a cult favorite in the the 1980s - partially by passing out homemade tapes around town, including in a McDonald's - and even appeared on MTV in 1985, but it wasn't until the early '90s, when Nirvana's Kurt Cobain started appearing in a t-shirt bearing the cover of Johnston's "Hi, How Are You?" album that Johnston's fame took off.

Johnston's struggles with manic depression formed the heart of the Oscar-nominated 2005 documentary "The Devil and Daniel Johnston". Named to commemorate Johnston's 1983 album and famous frog mural, which lives at the site of a former record store in the Texas capitol's downtown district, the event is also meant to encourage mental health support. He announced that he was retiring from live performance in 2017, closing his career with a five-date farewell tour that included sets from Jeff Tweedy, Modern Baseball, and Built to Spill. In the past year, his mental health also worsened. "Day" in his honor, on his birthday. Johnston told the Chronicle in 2018 that he had been working on a new album with Brian Beattie, as yet unreleased.



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