He had purity, honesty and integrity. A high, sweet and tremulous voice like a child man. He thumped out unadorned songs on old tape recorders in his bedroom about cartoons, The Beatles, and falling in hopeless, unrequited love with Laurie.
He was also really desperately ill, feared Satan and had many breakdowns. Nirvana, Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo (who recorded with him) adored him.
We all know the stories about Daniel Johnston. The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Jeff Feurzig’s moving and funny film documentary covered his incredible career, troubled family life, mood swings and psychotic episodes.
But let’s not forget what a genius he was. Big Business Monkey, Speeding Motorcycle, Casper the Friendly Ghost, True Love Will Find You In The End, It’s Spooky, I Did Acid with Caroline, I Met Roky Erickson… All wonderful. Late in life saw his renaissance, so that he finally started making some money after years of being sequestered in his bedroom.
I only saw him play once, a small, intimate gig in Glasgow about twenty years ago. He looked fragile, but pretty focused, kept it together and played an absolutely phenomenal show. The crowd held their breath as one, swaying slightly through every song.
He was an original, a true one- off and his comic book art was beautiful too. He passed away yesterday aged 58.
RIP, dear Daniel.