This Tuesday Daniel Johnston died. You may not have noticed it because few people really cared about their songs ejected from the quill of their windmill or their cartoons, and excuse two diminutives in one sentence, but they will see that they are necessary. Because he was like a child , a big boy encapsulated in his elusive gaze and trembling voice and clumsy movements. Everything was shaking in Daniel Johnston. It was for four decades the maximum expression of the cult artist, that type of creator who is worshiped by a small group of admirers as an alter ego with whom there is a high degree of identification, although Johnston was a character , underline character, more Very tragic, and if people empathized with their brutal sensibility, it was because they found in it the purest sign of human vulnerability.
Born 58 years ago in West Virginia (Texas, USA) , he suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and that is something that must be taken into account to explain any aspect of his professional and vital career. He was a singer-songwriter and made songs like good ghosts , dominated by emotions, by a childlike innocence that has often served to describe his glowing work.
Speaking of ghosts, Daniel Johnston often identified with Casper . He was also crazy about superheroes like Captain America and Silver Stele , and he feared the devil above all else. But Casper was his favorite character. He painted it many times and dedicated several very simple songs whose sincerity part of you like lightning, like this one from 1985 that says: "Casper lives in a world without promises / Sitting at home in pajamas / Wishing only that everything disappears in some way / We pass in front of him but he never sees us / He could have been a famous guitarist / He must not have had a clue / He feels like a bowl of spaghetti / Without knowing what to give / He is the one who has hope in his soul ".
And then there is the other part. Believing that it was Casper himself, in 1990 he caused an accident of a plane piloted by his father , who was a pilot of the US Air Force, after a psychotic attack. That was the world of Daniel Johnston, sometimes endearing and exciting; others terrible, snatched by fear.
In 1990 he had been recording his compositions with the guitar or keyboard on a small Sanyo device for a decade. Always at home. Forever Alone. Wishing to be loved . He then gathered the songs on a cassette, drew a cover and made copies that he sold himself, while working at an McDonald's in Austin. That year precisely he recorded his first album in a studio, that of a legendary 'underground' rock producer, Kramer .
After the accident, when he was 29 years old, he first entered a psychiatric hospital. In 1993 something really unexpected happened. Kurt Cobain , at the height of his fatal success, began to appear in public with t-shirts that showed a drawing of Johnston with the legend 'Hi, how are you' ("Hello, how are you").
The list of devout musicians of his work and his figure began to grow endlessly, with 'Jad Fair' and 'I Have It' at the head, but in which 'Tom Waits',' Eels, Bright Eyes also joined ',' The Flaming Lips', 'TV On The Radio' and tens and tens more. He came to record with a multinational company, he could be accompanied by rock and roll ensembles that sounded like homemade punk.
Was Daniel Johnston prepared for popularity? Obviously not. His 15 minutes of fame allowed him to start doing longer tours and record professionally. This left him exposed to the inadvisable company of opportunists who approached him to exploit that talent that flowed and spread out of control.
A world as grotesque as the images of some of his drawings began to wrap the artist. Something sordid; something awkward All this is told in the documentary 'The devil and Daniel Johnston', which in 2005 earned Jeff Feuerzeig the award for best documentary director at the Sundance Festival . As had happened in the mid-1990s, his name again became relevant again.
He continued recording, continued playing, and also drawing and exhibiting, until two years ago he announced that he was leaving the stage. This Tuesday he died of a heart attack, confirmed his manager, Jeff Tartakov . Her sister told local media that she was suffering from serious health problems that had worsened "significantly" in recent years.
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