Prolific singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston has died

Esequiel Farfan
Setiembre 12, 2019

Very sad news today, folks: according to the Austin Chronicle, legendary Austin musician Daniel Johnston - a one-of-a-kind singer/songwriter whose work has been covered by Tom Waits, Yo La Tengo, The Flaming Lips, and countless other musicians - passed away today at the age of 58.

"Daniel was a singer, songwriter, an artist, and a friend to all". His songs often contained innocent pleas for love and bore titles such as "Life in Vain", "True Love Will Find You in the End" and "Walking the Cow". His own struggles with mental illness, however, made him vulnerable and gave Johnston some of his earliest press. He was diagnosed at various points with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and spent time in psychiatric institutions. Kurt Cobain could be counted as a supporter, most notably when he was spotted wearing a t-shirt sporting Johnston's "Hi How Are You" album cover.

As the Chronicle reports, Johnston suffered from extensive health problems for several years before his passing.

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In 2005, he was the subject of a documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, that traced his artmaking and his significant struggles; the film won the documentary directing award at Sundance that year. But this incident didn't prevent a bidding war by labels once Cobain gave Johnston his stamp of approval. He enjoyed a late-life rebirth as a renaissance man, releasing a comic book, apparel collaborations with Supreme and a game for the iPhone.

Johnston played his last major shows in 2017 via a five date mini-tour featuring backing from Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Built to Spill, Modern Baseball and The Districts.

Although he had moved closer to Houston, Johnston was a revered enough figure in Austin that the city had designated an annual "Hi, How Are You?".

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