As with other talented but troubled artists such as Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, and Roky Erickson, Daniel Johnston fights a daily battle with the chronic mental illness that has plagued him nearly his entire life. However, despite recurrent bouts of delusional behavior wherein he has physically endangered himself and others, Johnston has carved out a respectable, influential career as a singer/songwriter of extraordinary talent which has grown since his first crudely recorded cassette was released in 1980. He became the singer/songwriter of choice of the alternative/underground rock scene, and at various times has had his work championed by members of Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Butthole Surfers, Half Japanese, Nirvana (Kurt Cobain was often photographed wearing a Daniel Johnston T-shirt), and numerous others.

Until the '90s, Johnston's recording were basically homemade affairs, his plain voice accompanied by crude piano and guitar playing. His narrative concerns focused mainly on lost love, the pain of miscommunication, his love for the Beatles, and comic-book superhero Captain America. Johnston's music is unflinchingly direct, almost embarrassingly and painfully honest. Because of this and his increasingly erratic behavior, he was considered a local hero in his home of Austin, TX (where he moved from rural West Virginia), but too extreme to engender the interest of a record label. That situation changed in 1985, when MTV filmed a program on the Austin music scene. Johnston's performance brought him almost overnight acclaim, and he went from local legend to national cult figure. Soon, many of his self-released cassette recordings (on his appropriately named Stress label) began showing up in hip record stores from Boston to L.A., and the buzz was that Daniel Johnston was the coolest. There was, however, a grim side to this ""success,"" as if his mental illness was the primary component of his hipness; therefore, there was a feeling that those not close to him were marketing his illness as much as his talent. Sadly, Johnston's behavior wasn't helping, and he was institutionalized twice in the late '80s after his refusal to take medication led to two dangerous episodes.

In the late '80s, indie label Homestead issued some of Johnston's early recordings on vinyl and a full-blown appreciation of Johnston's work was well underway. Soon he was recording solo and with Half Japanese mastermind Jad Fair on the Shimmy Disc indie label, and later with Butthole Surfer Paul Leary, who may well be the best producer/musical accompanist Johnston ever had. Johnston, to the amazement of virtually everyone, recorded for Atlantic, and despite occasional behavioral lapses, seemed more self-assured than ever. As a result, in the late '90s and 2000s, he recorded some of the best music of his career: smart, ebullient pop with ringing guitars, primitive keyboards, and a wonderfully naïve way of looking at the world. Although he sometimes becomes sad and bitter, cynicism and self-pity aren't his style, and that makes the little tragedies and epiphanies he writes about all the more compelling. Daniel Johnston's world may seem small, but it's much bigger and friendlier than that of our wildest imaginations.


Impossible Love by Gordon Gano




Alternative
h h

Mountain Top




Rock
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Conversation Suicide

12/20/2009 11:55:01 AM
The first Lyric I heard sung by you, done to a lovely LO-FI air-keyboard track,

"life is like a cow...but I don't know how..."

seriously, we had most of Tucson's Underground in love with your music in the early 90's, upon first listen.

-pHaNboY pHLeGm




Hop On Pop

8/19/2008 5:34:09 AM
Okay, so I feel that I need to let it known here which of your releases I own:
Yip/Jump Music (cassette)
Fun
It's Spooky
Why Me?
Hi! How Are You?
Songs Of Pain
More Songs Of Pain
Speeding Motorcycle b/w Do You Really Love Me? (7" on SOL)
The Late, Great Daniel Johnston

also: I own the DVD of the Devil and Daniel Johnston.

Anyway, I love you Danno and I hope that you can make it to Chicago again sometime.




Hop On Pop

7/31/2007 10:08:11 AM
Just heard "Mountain Top" and... it's another gem.
Keep writing, please. We love to listen as much as you love to write.




Spank Momma

5/27/2007 5:20:12 PM
I just saw a special on you on T.V. I hope you feel better, Very cool to have you here.
Peace Daniel.



 

       

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Love Manager Your song is now 1 of 30 Ways to Love, Welcome!
pmh true love will find you in the end is the most beautiful song ever written, dan. ever. thanks for it, i listen to it at least once a day.
Todd (Hop On Pop) Thank you , Dan, for all that you've contributed to my world through your music. You continue to inspire me. Much love to you, sir.
* Your song 'Love not dead' has just been added to ^^^BABY'S CRIB^^^ station!
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* Your song 'Love not dead' has just been added to Golden Pie.. station!
* Your song 'Mountain Top' has just been added to Slow Commotion station!
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* Your song 'Mountain Top' has just been added to Alternative Country station!
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* Your song 'Mountain Top' has just been added to The Mountain station!
* Your song 'Mountain Top' has just been added to 1 Hot Rock Station station!
* Your song 'Mountain Top' has just been added to IMP Playlist station!
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Out To Lunch
1978..
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IMP Playlist
The Good Stuff
The Mountain
Anarchists
Poets & Carnivores
KWLF (Werewolve Radio)
1 Hot Rock Station
Lou Reed
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Daniel Johnston