Yesterday I heard the news that Daniel Johnston had passed away.
This made me pretty sad. I became a fan of his about 10 years ago when my brother showed me the documentary "The Devil and Daniel Johnston". Seeing this movie intrigued me so very much because of how odd he was, yet how much I could not take my eyes off the screen when he was talking or performing. Daniel Johnston is most definitely an acquired taste, but I acquired it immediately.
After seeing the movie I dove deep into his music catalog. And it was as oddly intriguing as I was hoping it would be. Johnston, as stated in the movie, was a self taught musician, and it showed. While not super proficient on guitar, he could play enough to write a song, and man could he write. His lyrics were so profound and sad and emotional and relatable and weird and just flat out good, at least for me. His music was something I had never heard before, and his voice, and upon hearing it in the movie, I found myself very much into.
When listening to all of his music, I started to learn more and more about him and how influential he was to many musicians that I was listening to at the time, and that I still listen to today. I was a big time Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes fan, and Johnston was a big time influence on him. I have been known to listen to Wilco and Jeff Tweedy, although sometimes I feel like a punk when I do, and Johnston was humongous to them. Even a band like TV on the Radio, who I adore, appeared on a cover record of his, and claim him as someone that gave them the courage to go out and perform.
That was the main thing about Johnston. Any short comings other may have perceived him to have, he didn't care. He would go out and perform constantly. He didn't care what people said, he just went out and played. That takes courage. And, as I said, he was one of the first people from the Austin scene in the early 90's to go out and do his thing. He even got himself a spot on MTV, when they still showed music videos, and that was a big time boon to his career. With this success came problems, but I feel like he had these problems all his life. If you listen to his music, you can hear the pain and fear and schizophrenia that he fought his whole life. Sure, he spent time in a mental hospital, but after coming out, he made some of his best music. And that was the thing, he was always writing. He never stopped. He had so much to say, and when he found his platform, he used it to the best of his ability.
Daniel Johnston was a true original. He was one of a kind. He made so much music, and I am grateful that I have it to listen to for the rest of my life. The only thing that personally bums me out, I had a chance to see him on his last tour, but family stuff came up and I had to miss it. Now I will never have that chance again. I wish I could have gone, but family comes first. As for now, I will miss Johnston and his seemingly never ending writing and music. I have been listening to him ever since I heard the news, and I feel like I will be listening to it for a good long time. I will miss Daniel Johnston, and a lot of other people will too. The music world has lost a true original artist. RIP
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing and the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast.
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