Daniel Johnston, rest in peace
Very sad news: beloved outsider artist musician Daniel Johnston has died. The Austin Chronicle reports, and his former manager Jeff Tartakov confirms, that he died Tuesday night of an apparent heart attack. He was 58.
Johnston was born in West Virginia but moved to Austin in the ’80s where his home recorded cassettes — like the classic More Songs of Pain, Yip/Jump Music, and Hi, How Are You — found an audience among other musicians and his cult fame grew. He also struggled with schizophrenia and manic depression, as chronicled in the 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Kurt Cobain was an early and vocal fan, and Johnston’s songs have been covered by Tom Waits, Wilco, Beck, Yo La Tengo, Sparklehorse, Beach House and more.
Daniel went on his “final tour” in 2017, and played NYC’s Town Hall backed by Joan as Policewoman and more.
UPDATE: Daniel’s family shared a statement with his passing:
The Johnston family is deeply saddened to announce the death of their brother, Daniel Johnston. He passed away from natural causes this morning at his home outside of Houston, Texas.
Daniel was a singer, songwriter, an artist, and a friend to all. Although he struggled with mental health issues for much of his adult life, Daniel triumphed over his illness through his prolific output of art and songs. He inspired countless fans, artists, and songwriters with his message that no matter how dark the day, “the sun shines down on me” and “true love will find you in the end.”
Daniel’s life and music inspired the Hi, How Are You Project to encourage open conversation around mental health. His birthday, January 22, is celebrated as Hi, How Are You Day.
Dick Johnston, Daniel’s older brother says of Dan, “I always wanted Danny to feel like his own person, and in control of his own life. Since beginning to work and travel with him in about 2003, we gratefully were able to travel the entire globe for over a decade to get out before the fans. He was always, everywhere, warmly received and he at least knew he was well loved. Health issues have plagued us for years, I’m glad for the time we had.”
Tom Gimbel, Daniel’s manager of over 25 years, says, “I am so saddened by the news of Daniel’s passing. It has been the greatest honor and privilege of my professional life to work with Daniel Johnston – someone who I consider to be one of the greatest songwriting geniuses of our time. In our time together Daniel was more than an artist; he was a friend, he was family. I will miss him greatly but will smile every time I hear his songs.”
Rest in peace, Daniel.