Daniel Johnston (Outsider Folk)

Who is Daniel Johnston?: An endlessly influential musician/artist (Kurt Cobain would often be seen ‘promoting’ Johnston by wearing a T-shirt with the Hi, How Are You? album cover printed on it), Daniel Johnston has been recording outsider folk music (and also drawing/painting surrealist art) since the mid 80s.

He first gained notoriety in Austin, Texas–where he would obsessively hand out (for free) home-made copies of his albums (on cassette) at shows. This assertiveness ultimately led him to appear on an MTV program called The Cutting Edge–where he captivated audiences nationwide with his paradoxically down-to-earth/totally-out-there approach to folk/pop music.

Later on, he went on to work with prominent artists/musicians (Jad Fair of Half Japanese and Butthole Surfers–to name a few) during a stint in New York City. However, it was here that his drug abuse gave way to schizophrenia. To this day, he struggles with maintaining a normal life. His parents take care of him, and do what they can to assure he is still able to do what he loves most.

The marvelous documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston does a much better job providing an all-encompassing picture of his interesting life.

Interesting Fact: During a flight with his father (an ex-Air Force pilot), Johnston suffered a manic episode and believed himself to be Casper (the friendly ghost). He pulled the keys from the plane’s ignition and threw them out the window. Due to his previous experience flying planes, Johnston’s father was able to crash land the craft successfully (neither of them were seriously injured).

Recommended Listening: “Some Things Last a Long Time” off of the 1990 album 1990. 


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