Indie Rock Legend Daniel Johnston Dead at 58

Avery Scott, IV Leader Staff

On the night of Sept. 10 the great American singer, songwriter, and musician Daniel Johnston passed away from a presumed heart attack in his Texas home.

Johnston was an artist unlike any other. His outsider music style inspired many other artists like Kurt Cobain, the Flaming Lips, and Pearl Jam. His art is featured in an Austin, TX mural entitled “Hi How Are You?,” the same art and name of his 1983 album Hi, how are you: The Unfinished Album.

Johnston released 17 full length albums during his career and struggled with mental illnesses including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These issues landed him in a mental hospital in 1990 after a music festival performance.

In 2018, the date Jan. 22 was named “Hi, How Are You” Day by the city of Austin. Johnston rose to fame in the city from passing out self-recorded cassette tapes with his very own cartoons on them.

Johnston was an astounding songwriter who created songs about pain, unrequited love and the misery of miscommunication. Never has there been a more honest and poignant artist in our lifetime.

His music sounded almost childlike, not only in his vocals but also in his instrumentation. Sometimes he used kids’ toys as instruments to express himself. Johnston’s music, which resembles folk and rock, takes on a more primitive sound with his unique recording style. His biggest influence was the Beatles.

Johnson also attended school for art during a short period of time. Some of his work can be found in his comic Space Ducks: An Infinite Comic Book of Musical Greatness.