I was sad to hear that Daniel Johnston died yesterday. He was a genius songwriter who wrote honest and simple lo-fi pop songs about true love and innocence. Like many, I learned about him from the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. If you haven’t seen it, you must watch it. It’s a fascinating look at the very unique life of a troubled person who only wanted to be an artist.
Here’s the trailer:
I don’t feel the need to eulogize Daniel, but here’s an interesting excerpt about him from a piece the Guardian published today:
In the early 1990s, he suffered a manic psychotic episode during a plane flight, when, believing he was the cartoon character Casper the Friendly Ghost, he threw the ignition keys for the plane out of its window – he and his father escaped with minor injuries following the subsequent crash. It prompted one of many spells in psychiatric institutions, and he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Over the years he also suffered from diabetes, kidney infections and hydrocephalus; last year he was hospitalised following a fall.
His eccentricity was legendary – he refused to sign with Elektra because they also employed Metallica, whom Johnston regarded as satanic; he ran away from home as a teenager on a moped to join a travelling carnival; he was arrested for graffiti-ing the Statue of Liberty with hundreds of Christian fish symbols. But as another admirer, Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, said in 2017: “Daniel has managed to create in spite of his mental illness, not because of it. He’s been honest in his portrayal of what he’s been struggling with without overtly drawing attention to it.
And here’s the most classic of Daniel Johnston songs:
Even Curt was a fan.