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Daniel Johnston

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 who 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 recordings 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. Johnston was exposed to an even larger audience in 2005 with the release of The Devil and Daniel Johnston, a feature-length documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, eventually making its way around the world. The Electric Ghosts, an album credited to the duo of Johnston and Don "Jack Medicine" Goede, arrived in March 2006, followed by Is and Always Was in 2009. In 2010, Johnston worked with BEAM, an 11-piece orchestra from the Netherlands, touring with them and eventually recording some tracks with them for his album Beam Me Up!, which featured a mix of new solo work as well as some re-recorded classics. Johnston's world may seem small, but it's much bigger and friendlier than that of your wildest imagination. ~ John Dougan, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

Love this man I can't seem to get enough of his music
Cool (:
Love ya Danny
He sucks. Get offa my Pandora
jessedphilli p s
This guy is even better than Wesley Willis.
"In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His Grace which He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself" Ephesians 1:7-9 Peace be to you all, thought you'd all like to find peace within yourselves that create a purpose in ones life, how does God speak to you personally about what you read? & not conform to man's visions but of God's, not preaching but caring for you all, D.Johnst
People love crazy..
nicko252008
Haha, no not a hipster. Just telling it like I sees it.
You're so hip Nicko, I bet you burn your mouth when you eat pizza because you ate it before it was cool.
don1983 and dwylie9 may a diseased yak drag his gonads through every meal you and your family eat
nicko252008
Like how everybody is jumping on the DJ bandwagon. after the movie came out.
I love this guy - he is a true artist!
deba0023
I met him at SXSW 2011 and the experience was heartbreakin g . Who leaves a mentally ill man to fend for himself while "fans" are demanding he draw them something or for him to sign something? His brother and "friends" were speaking on a panel about him and he was setup at a table in the hallway with no one to protect him. I was so ashamed of the disrespect shown for this man's state and mental health. He looked a bit like a deer in the headlights so I hugged him just to protect him for a moment a
deba0023
I met him during SXSW 2011 and I will say the experience was utterly heartbreakin g . Who lives a mentally ill man alone to be harassed by "fans" demanding drawings and signatures. I asked him just for a hug to protect him for a few minutes and he said thank you.
It's different. I like it...I like different.
nicko252008
Goosebumps.. . you could not dig deep enough to find the root of this music, unreal....
right?
this helps me
nicko252008
We love you daniel! deep music, keep it up.
LOL WAT KIND OF SONG IS THIS ITS HORRIBLE!
They should really get Beam me up, Daniel on here. Dan was really proud that he recorded a record with a whole orchestra.
Life in Vain' is one of the most honest and heartwrenchi n g songs I have ever heard...Love this guyy
i wish i could, for a single moment, be as honest about anything as this guy is about everything.
this guy is one of my favorite artists, music and visual, and he's also a great guy to hang out with. He's always cracking jokes
"Some Time Spent In Heaven" ... a song played on my Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen station yesterday was the first time I heard of Daniel Johnston. BRILLIANT !!! I instantly became a fan.
lol? That's kinda disrespectfu l . This man has many problems and his music definitely says it all. Heart-wrench i n g stuff right here.
goog stuff
He's influenced so many
i love him too
So great
lol i love daniel johnston. so unique
He's different, I like it. Nuff said.
icp =insane clown pausse. Its not about whos a better artist honestly both brian wilson and daniel are brilliant. the reason people enjoy daniel so much is because out of so many fake people in this world, daniel johnston is almost uncomfortabl y real and honest. You listen to his music and lyrics and if you can get past the bad guitar playing and amateur vocals you cant help but feel an emotional connection. There are millions of talented musicians that no matter how good they are they will neve
don1983
what or who is icp?
brothervigil a n t e
RE don1983: If Daniel Johnston is so awful, why is it necessary to look at what Pandora and its listeners have to say about him? And why comment on it? I bet you like ICP.
don1983
A thousand? Nah.He may be a thousand times... LAMER!!! Dorks.
untitled.rtf
Daniel Johnston is a thousand times better than Brian Wilson.
don1983
yeah he's just like Brian Wilson, except people LIKE Brian Wilson's music.
I've never enjoyed bad recordings so thoroughly as when I listen to Daniel Johnston.
don1983
Wow Kurt Cobain used to wear his T- Shirt? He MUST be cool, if Kurt liked it. I get all my opinions from dead junkie rock stars, right? Why is that bit of useless info even IN this review? Critics and fans have a hard-on for Cobain in the worst way.
tristancloy
A true pioneer ahead of his time, this man is from the future in past tense, breaking ground with a raw and unabashed candor, bittersweet and pure.
Im glad Daniel is still around pouring his heart out on the guitar. He is so honest it makes me smile when I hear his songs.
hi. how are you. austin is lucky to have that frog =)
i likes him =D
tonyl70
nice work
wheeeeeeee.. . .
evans81
The bio and discography neglect to mention the 2-CD set, "The Late Great Daniel Johnston," in which his originals are paired with some outstanding covers by groups that admire him.
like a monkey in a zoo.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU ,THANK YOU, FOR BEING BORN, MR. JOHNSTON
Weeep, weep, weep...smile . s m i l e . . . w e e e p . . w e e e p . . s m i l e . . . t h i n k . s i t . g e t up...think of the one that got away. Daniel, you say what we all wish we could say. Thank you.
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