Daniel Johnston, the legendary Austin-based vocalist/songwriter and visual artists who was the subject of the 2005 documentary “The Devil & Daniel Johnston,” has expired from a heart attack Tuesday night at the age of 58. Johnston’s manager, Dick Johnston, affirmed the news of Johnston’s death to media.
Johnston’s lo-fi, quirky folk songs were covered by the likes Tom Waits, Pearl Jam and Yo La Tengo. Kurt Cobain could be added as a supporter, most notably when he was detected wearing a t-shirt sporting Johnston’s “Hi How Are You” album cover.
Born in Sacramento before migrating to West Virginia and lastly settling in Austin in the 1980s, Johnston first rose to fame in Texas for his home-recorded albums, beginning with 1981’s “Songs of Pain.” He had 17 albums overall. Johnston’s last album, 2012’s “Space Ducks,” highlighted a slew of guest musicians including Concealed Mortal Orchestra, Eleanor Friedberger, Deer Tick, Fruit Bats, and Lavender Diamond.
In 2005, “The Devil & Daniel Johnston” doc found a new interest in the singer. The film described Johnston’s fights with manic depression and schizophrenia. It also showcased a lyricist who was cuddled by a rabid cult following
In recent years, his health declined — which involved falling, hospitalization and numerous adjustments to his prescription, his sister Margy Johnston said.
His last tour took place in 2017, where he was encouraged by the likes of Jeff Tweedy & Friends, Built To Spill, the Preservation All-Stars, Ben Lee, the Districts and Modern Baseball.
A tribute to Johnston, which took place in Austin in January to celebrate his 58th birthday highlighted the likes of Flaming Lips, the Black Angels, Gavin DeGraw, Bob Mould with others.
Johnston had been working on a brand-new album with Austin-based producer Brian Beattie for “years” he told the Chronicle and Vulture reported in April that the album would be titled “If.”