Daniel Johnston was an ambitious songwriter and artist. In 2005, when filmmaker Jeff Feuerzeig worked with him on the famous documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston he was surprised that the musician had faithfully archived his own life, resulting in a wealth of material: Super-8 Home videos, cassette recordings and drawings.
"He had this master plan that he would do something with it," said Johnston's former manager Jeff Tartakov.
The artist, who died of a heart attack, at the age of only 58 was vulnerable. This was caused by his bipolar disorders and lifelong struggles for mental health. But that does not mean that he lacked the freedom of choice. In fact, he became a local hero in his hometown of Austin in the 1
Johnston's friend Brian Beattie told the newspaper yesterday, "He was first a legend in his eyes, then a true legend. This was the only time I saw someone say "I'm going to get famous" and that he just made himself. He became the least likely to become popular on Earth – and he did. When Kurt Cobain wore a T-shirt depicting the artwork for one of Johnston's tapes, "Hello, how are you?"
", Started this legend. Johnston joined the 90s counter-cultural movement – which was played by alternative bands like Nirvana and Sonic Youth and filmmakers like Harmony Korine, Johnston's rigorous song "Casper The Friendly Ghost". Included in the unshakable kids – meant the madmen had infiltrated the mainstream. He was her patron saint.
Johnston signed with Atlantic Records and collaborated with Butthole Surfers Paul Leary to create & # 39; Fun & # 39; In 1994, he recorded a record that spiced up his minimalist sound. The result was a collection of rattling garage punk. The Devil and Daniel Johnston provided Johnston with another Renaissance; A blogosphere of the late nineties starving for alternative sounds devoured the high-gloss album (by its standards) "Is And Always Was & # 39; from 2009, which was supervised by Jason Falkner.
The disease prevented Daniel Johnston from working in recent years, but his influence on popular culture was immeasurable. As a musician, he inspired not only Cobain, but also recent denominational songwriters such as Bright Eyes and a new generation of mental health professionals – NME on the new gene favorite Beabadoobee's impact on their work. The Simpsons The creator Matt Groening also loved his work as a caricaturist.
Like any complex, ambitious songwriter, Daniel Johnston's work was diverse and varied – though certain themes reappeared: depression, the power of romantic love, a girl named Laurie, whom he met at art school (they joined in 2005) the premiere of The Devil and Daniel Johnston reunited). So it can be daunting to analyze his extensive back catalog, which consists of 17 albums.
Here are 13 great songs by this wonderful, gifted musician.
"Devil Town" (1990)
This a cappella track captures everything unique to Daniel Johnson. "I lived in a devil's town", he sings and continues: " All friends were vampires / Did not know they were vampires / It turned out that I was a vampire myself." It is haunting, strange and sad. The title was reinterpreted as a jazz number on the compilation "Beam Me Up" from 2010, but nothing can surpass the otherworldly original.
"Some things last a long time" (1990)
From the same album, this sensitive number is piano-based, but remains almost as small and fragile as "Devil Town". It's mostly two repeats that are played repeatedly, Johnston insisting that "some things last a lifetime" – what his mantra might be, considering his ongoing health struggles and lifelong creativity. He allegedly worked on an album before he died. Take a look at this amazing cover by Lana Del Rey.
& # 39; high horse & # 39; (2009)
At the other end of the spectrum is this nimble pop song inspired by Billy Joel, with Johnston beaming over the bouncing piano "Say, hello, at my funeral / I'm on time there". Although these lyrics are bittersweet – and particularly moving – it was noted at the time that "Is And Always Was," the album they appeared on was more optimistic than most of his work. It was his last real album and a great way to remember him.
"Without You" (2009)
While we're here, we can enjoy another "Is and Always Was" cut. Daniel Johnston wrote wonderfully about love, and he also wrote fabulous, mischievous comic songs. & # 39; without you & # 39; is a carefree separation song: "Without you – I'm fine!" he sings, later concluding: "Without you – I'll be a magic." Magic! " Try to hear it without smiling.
& # 39; Funeral Girl & # 39; (1999)
Johnston was deleted by Atlantic when his 1994 album & # 39; Fun & # 39; unsold: his 1999 collection & # 39; Rejected Unknown & # 39; was named after this fact. The outstanding "Funeral Girl" also indicates that he was a more self-confident songwriter than some might believe. The track begins with a harsh, piano-led melody that could have been lifted from one of his early home cassettes before turning into a comical honky-tonk ode, brass-studded parping for a woman hooking up at funerals.
"Love Wheel" (1994)
You can not trust people, especially those who did not buy Daniel Johnston's 1994 album "Fun". This Belter puts it in a nutshell, the clanging percussion offset with a crunching guitar and Johnston's unrestrained voice: "Show me what you love / how heaven will do it upstairs." It's cheerful and melancholy – and you can dance to it.
& # 39; Life In Vain & # 39; (1994)
It immediately follows & # 39; Life In Vain & # 39; on the & # 39; Fun & # 39; -tracklist, a ballad that is so strange that it's funny to think that a) it came from someone who is generally considered an "outsider artist" and b) it was not a hit , The rousing strings (certainly – certainly !) – an inspiration for Green Days & # 39; Good Riddance (time of your life), which came three years later), the loose guitar playing, the yearning question "Where am I going? This is one of Johnston's most accessible songs.
"Casper The Friendly Ghost" (1983)
Then it's time to explore some of Johnston's least accessible work. It is one of the great contradictions of his contradictory career that this song became one of his most famous songs thanks to his appearance on the soundtrack Kids . A real early shot at home. Johnston pounds away, presses the keys of the keyboard and weaves the story of a spirit who smiled in life " through his personal hell," but found his luck in death because " Everyone respects the dead."
In Kids this deceptively naive-sounding song was used as a soundtrack to a brutal attack in a skate park, a testament to the darkness that plagued many of Johnston's music.
39; Funeral Home & # 39; (1980)
Daniel Johnston's music had an indelible quality even in its most rudimentary form, with this raspy, self-made song he usually sings the same lines over and over again, usually without help, until a few friends Funeral home / Go to this funeral home / I have a coffin, shiny and black / I am When I go to the funeral, I'll never come back. " But the melody is so insistent, so strange and so perfect that she stays with you all day.
& # 39; Wicked World & # 39; (1980)  This is from Johnston's debut album "Songs Of Pain", recorded in his parents' cellar in Virginia before moving to Austin. The album is a challenge (it's just Johnston, a keyboard and a tape recorder), but its typical sounds are there. While "Grievances", which opens the album, is often considered the "epitome" of Johnston, "Wicked Word" is more melodic and sweet.
"Mountain Top" (2003)
Fast forward to 2003 and Johnston in a team with Sparklehorse front man Mark Linkous, who, like Paul Leary and Jason Falkner, channeled the uncompromising sound of the musician into something more accessible. This vibrant track combines strings, breakneck drums, and sparkling sound effects, and sounds like a classic of the parallel-universe drive-time – if you're sitting behind the wheel of a spaceship.
& # 39; My Life Is Starting Again & # 39; (1989)
Man, Daniel Johnston was great at opening albums. This groovy rockabilly number addresses Johnston's own career, another indication of his self-confidence. As a rising cult hero, he had played the South By South West Festival in his hometown. Here he boasts: "My fame spreads over the country / My life begins again". And the glory and lasting influence of this iconoclastic figure will live on.
"True love will find you in the end" (1990)
Want evidence? This sparse, tender love song is Daniel Johnston's trademark and has been covered by countless artists, including The Flaming Lips and Beck. Through gentle guitar, Johnston sings the lines that sound with the wonderful simplicity of so many of his works: "True love will find you in the end / This is a promise with a hook / Only when you see it, you can find it / Because true love is searching too. "