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"I guess I’m an artist. That’s my super power."
March 6, 2014 9:06 PM   Subscribe

A short and sweet 10-minute documentary on musician and artist Daniel Johnston. [SLYT]
"Daniel Johnston has spent the last 20 or so years exposing his heartrending tales of unrequited love, cosmic mishaps, and existential torment to an ever-growing international cult audience. Initiates, including a healthy number of discerning musicians and critics, have hailed him as an American original in the style of bluesman Robert Johnson and country legend Hank Williams.

[...]

Throughout his career, Daniel's songs and drawings have been informed to some degree by his ongoing struggle with manic depression -- lending an added poignancy to his soul-searching times. His five-month stint with the carney left him in Austin, where he decided to stay. In the midst of that city's mid-eighties music scene, Johnston was a definite iconoclast. While he continued to hand out his tapes for free, Austin record stores started selling them; in fact, the became best-selling local releases. Soon, a camera crew from MTV's seminal "Cutting Edge" show came to town and all the Austin bands suggested they feature Daniel.

[...]

Daniel gained his widest public exposure to date when, at the 1992 MTV Music Awards, Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain (who constantly touted Daniel in interviews) wore a Johnston T-shirt."
[via]

Daniel Johnston previously 1, 2
posted by Room 641-A (14 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
HI HOW ARE YOU.

(I will go watch the linked video now.)
posted by mudpuppie at 9:23 PM on March 6 [3 favorites]


Apparently, he did a tiny desk concert recently-ish. Very nice.
posted by narwhal at 10:37 PM on March 6


It turns out I was a vampire myself, in a devil town.
posted by bpm140 at 10:43 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Super power indeed. I love Daniel Johnston's music so, so much.

There's a very rough quality video of
of Daniel singing a song in 12-bar blues on some organ in someone's home...I can never quite remember what it's called but every time I see that video it gives me chills. It has the line "I thought I saw an angel sitting on a post".

I know he's got troubles, maybe more than most. But holy hells he's a true artist through and through.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:00 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


[video link time stamp typo fixed.]
posted by taz at 11:15 PM on March 6


Daniel Johnston previously 3, 4.

I played in various incarnations of Daniel's backing band, was his opening act on and off for a good while as the Adding Machines (and supplied him with my friends' bands as opening acts), and played in a band called the Lucky Sperms that consisted of Daniel, Jad Fair, and myself. No, I'm not in The Devil & Daniel Johnston. It was beginning to be put together right around the time period when I ended both my professional and my personal relationships with Daniel. If I would have foreseen the success of that film, I guess I could've hung on a little bit longer. My visionary magic super power has never been calibrated quite right, but then, most people have a breaking point with Daniel Johnston. I did it for as long as I could and have some very weird memories. Someone needs to figure out how to DVR those off my brain before I croak.

It was now officially a Long Long Time Ago. I was quite young. I get to brag.

posted by item at 11:33 PM on March 6 [20 favorites]


Daniel never fails to fill my heart with joy.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:44 PM on March 6


I saw Daniel Johnston 2 or 3 times in Gainesville, FL, during the 90s (at The Covered Dish), owned by my roommate at the time.
It seemed on every occasion there was a lot of stress about finding his notebook (I didn't think he was going to go on one time, but eventually he did)--I remember him singing a love song and tearing up during a song. I think there's hit and miss, but man, when he hits, you can really hear the genius below the surface.

(I'm assuming everyone's seen the full-length documentary on him.)
posted by whatgorilla at 12:51 AM on March 7


In a perfect example of Austin Texas's self-referential, historically based, commercially-driven "Weirdness," the old Sound Exchange on The Drag is now a restaurant called, "Thai, How Are You?" Daniel Johnston's mural, has gone from a symbol of the lazy community and creativity of the pre-Slacker days to a symbol of everything jacked about that town, now.
posted by pomegranate at 4:51 AM on March 7 [3 favorites]


most people have a breaking point with Daniel Johnston. I did it for as long as I could and have some very weird memories.

Or you could talk more about that here because I bet 100% of us would like to know.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:40 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Or you could talk more about that here because I bet 100% of us would like to know.

I am part of the 100% and would be happy to hear about any of your experiences you're comfortable sharing.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:47 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


Read the "Daniel Johnston previously 3, 4" Mefi Music threads I linked to for a few tales. Other than those, keep an eye on this thread and I'll try to post something later today. I will say that it's been long enough - there's very little I'd hesitate to share here.
posted by item at 6:12 AM on March 7 [1 favorite]


One of the most amazing experiences I ever had was seeing my friends at Houston's Infernal Bridegroom theater company produce a rock opera ("Speeding Motorcycle") in collaboration with Johnston back in 2006. It centered over what a Johnston fan might call the Laurie Narrative, and then his emergence from that despair. It closed with a new song ("Lovin' Feelings") Daniel wrote for the show.

It ran again in 2007 in Austin, but after that lots of bad things happened -- the company folded, and one of the principal actors died -- so plans to tour it or sell DVDs become untenable. It really was a beautiful, heartwarming and heartbreaking work, and remembering it always makes me smile.

I hope, at some point, it gets the attention it deserves. I took some pictures, back then, that might be fun to look at if the idea of a Johnston musical appeals, but they predate any attempt by me at decent photography. That is, though, Johnston's autograph (and eyeball) Sharpie'd onto my friend AJ's scooter.
posted by uberchet at 9:38 AM on March 7


uberchet, I saw it too! It was amazing. And later that spring he played at the Orange Show with Kathy McCarty. A really lovely, sweet show.
posted by pomegranate at 5:08 AM on March 8


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