Mysterious artist Daniel Johnston passed away on Wednesday, September 11 at the age of 58.
The American songwriter and cartoonist had been going back and forth to the hospital in recent months for kidney problems, his brother and manager Dick Johnston said, but his death was "unexpected." "Just yesterday, his morale was good (...) he looked and felt really good," he said.
Messages in memory of the singer were left by admirers
Hours after Daniel Johnston died at 58, flowers and notes have been left outside his 'Hi, How Are You' mural at 21st and Guadalupe. @cbsaustin pic.twitter.com/8usCeXXn5kJordan Bontke (@JBontkeCBS) September 11, 2019
Daniel Johnson has built in almost 40 years a unique poetic universe, inhabited by childish utopias, the difficulty of communicating and lost love.
The Beatles, the comic book superhero Captain Casper, the ghost or King Kong were among the recurring heroes of his often pop-country compositions, combining brilliant melodic and dramatic power.
Marked by both a puritanical education and "pop culture", Daniel Johnston fought for years against a manic-depressive syndrome, with a look both acute and naive about the world through small stories often tragic, but devoid of cynicism, which evoked a diary.
Born in 1961 in Sacramento, California, passionate from an early age by drawing, but also piano, then guitar, he records his own compositions on tapes from adolescence that he exchanges with other musician friends .
After high school, he spends a lot of his time drawing, developing a style very close to comics, and composing.
From "Never relaxed" to "Phantom of my own opera" through "Like a monkey in a zoo", the artisanal character of the "Songs of Pain" tapes, made in 1980 (and recently reissued on CD), highlighting a unique sense of melody and writing.
In 1983, the musician followed for several months a traveling carnival, before moving to Austin, Texas, where his cassettes "Hi, How are you?" and "Yip / Jump Music" (whose songs "Speeding Motorcycle" and "Casper, the friendly ghost") make it a local celebrity.
In 1985, his strange thin voice and unmistakable piano touch, with impromptu changes of tempo, are propelled to the forefront of the alternative scene as a result of a report from the MTV channel.
Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, The Pastels and Kurt Cobain will be among his many admirers. Twenty of them (Teenage Fan Club, Beck, Mercury Rev, Calvin Johnson ...) pay tribute in a double album covers in 2004.
After several stays in mental hospitals in the late 1980s, Daniel Johnston is welcomed by the independent label Shimmy Disc, which opens the doors of the international scene. Daniel Johnston recorded with Jad Fair, singer and guitarist of Half-Japanese ("It's Spooky"), then two studio albums, "1990" and "Artistic Vice" (1992). His rating with the critics allowed him to sign in 1994 with the "major" Atlantic, which publishes the upsetting "Fun".
After a long time again disturbed by his health problems, Johnston returns in 2001 with the album "Rejected Unknown", then in 2003, with "Fear Yourself". Two years ago, the artist toured, which will have been his last.