Daniel Johnston was born on January 22nd, 1961 in Sacramento, California but grew up West Virginia. He is a singer songwriter of low-fi music who gained a cult following in the depths of the underground alternative scene. Similarly to artists such as Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd or Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, Daniel Johnston suffers from mental illness, specifically schizophrenia and manic depression. He spent much of his life in and out of mental institutions. He has an extensive career of eighteen studio albums and three live albums. He has collaborated with bands such as Yo La Tengo, Okkervil River, Sufjan Stevens, and others.
Due to the very do-it-yourself and low-fi nature of his music, his style is primarily lyrically driven. Critics of Johnston works constantly comment on the simplistic and childlike voice and lyric style. He began to gain notoriety when members of Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Butthole Surfers, Half Japanese spoke highly of Johnston. Kurt Cobain was often seen wearing a Daniel Johnston album promo shirt, which added to the hype surrounding Johnston. MTV did a short series on the Austin music scene (where Johnston lived throughout his adult life) and Johnston was thrown into the national spotlight. His fame danced a fine line. He felt as if the craze behind the love of his music was mostly due to his mental illness and that companies were taking advantage of him because of his illness. This thought led him to stop taking his medicine and caused two very dangerous episodes for Johnston.
ENGL4302 Spoken Word Poetry & Pedagogy at LSU