"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."

Daniel Johnston previously 1, 2
posted by Room 641-A (12 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

(I will go watch the linked video now.)
posted by mudpuppie at 9:23 PM on March 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Apparently, he did a tiny desk concert recently-ish. Very nice.
posted by narwhal at 10:37 PM on March 6, 2014

It turns out I was a vampire myself, in a devil town.
posted by bpm140 at 10:43 PM on March 6, 2014 [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, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: video link time stamp typo fixed.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:15 PM on March 6, 2014

Daniel never fails to fill my heart with joy.
posted by humboldt32 at 11:44 PM on March 6, 2014

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, 2014

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, 2014 [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, 2014 [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, 2014 [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, 2014

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, 2014

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