It seems that I only really find out about classic artists from before my time through those who cite them as sources, like so many Wikipedia links in the footnotes of so many papers failed by so many irate Professors. Interpol cite Joy Division, The Arcade Fire cite The Boss (who, as previously stated by Will, is not Rick Ross), Bloc Party cite Mozzer, and Bright Eyes cites The Cure.
Such was the way I stumbled upon Daniel Johnston. Curt Cobain was a huge fan. Sonic Youth had him open for them. He did a record with Jad Fair from Half Japanese. Brand New (I can see your smirk through the screen, they updated their sound – its much more Nirvana than Nineteen-year-old-mall-punk) named their latest record after a conversation regarding this singer. One of my favourite records from the summer, M.Ward‘s Post War, contains an excellent cover of “To Go Home”. Further, Matthew Good has put out a fine rendition of “True Love Will Find You in the End”” (a truly heartbreaking song due to its simplicity and directness) on his latest record. After all of these tangents converged, I began to wonder, who is this truly exceptional songwriter that I have never head of?
Daniel Johnston is a manic depressive, borderline schizophrenic visual artist from West Virginia who believes that God and Satan are engaged in a battle over his soul. I watched the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston last night, and it simply broke my heart. Read the Wikipedia entry on him for further backstory. Johnston’s recordings of his own songs are, for the uninitiated, a little jarring. However, when placed in the hands of more talented performers, the beauty, honesty, and simplicity of Johnston’s songs become apparent. Everyone has covered him, so if you have some favorite covers, throw some links into the comments section. I’ve also picked out one of the better performances of Johnston’s for your listening pleasure.
Tags: Daniel Johnston