Perhaps best known to the general public as the title subject of the 2006 documentary The Devil And Daniel Johnston, Daniel Johnston is in his own right a well respected songwriter and personality. His songs are characterized by quirk and naïveté but are firmly grounded and stay safely on the other side of the fence from camp.
Born in Sacramento but raised in Chester, West Virginia, Johnston is nevertheless a long-time fixture of the Austin, Texas scene. His local reputation led to potential mainstream success, but Johnston was repeatedly thwarted at each turn by mental illness. Though hardly the breakthrough sensation he longs to be, he remains a great influence and was even honored with a 2004 tribute album, The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered (note: he’s not dead yet).
Daniel Johnston was recently nominated for the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. Being neither a West Virginia native nor a resident during his greatest period of creative output, it remains to be seen whether he gets in. Let’s hope he will be–couched between Frankie Yankovic and Blind Alfred Reed, no less.
Here’s “Crazy Love” from 1994’s Fun, one of Johnston’s most touching songs yet: