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Daniel Dale Johnston (born January 22, 1961) is an Americanmarker singer, songwriter, musician, and artist. Johnston was the subject of the 2006 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. He currently lives in Waller, Texasmarker.

Johnston has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. One critic writes that Johnston's recordings range from "spotty to brilliant."


Early life

Johnston was born in Sacramento, Californiamarker, and grew up in the northern panhandle of West Virginiamarker between Ohiomarker and Pennsylvaniamarker near Chester, West Virginiamarker. He began recording Beatles-inspired music in the late 1970s on a $59 Sanyo monaural Boombox, singing and playing piano and chord organ. Following graduation from Oak Glen High School, Johnston spent his first year away from home at Abilene Christian Universitymarker in West Texas. Later he attended the East Liverpoolmarker branch of Kent State Universitymarker, which was closer to his hometown.

Music career

Johnston's musical work gained some notoriety when he moved to Austin, Texasmarker. Johnston began to attract the attention of the local press and gain a following augmented in numbers by his habit of handing out tapes to people he met. Live performances were well-attended and hotly anticipated.

His local standing led to him being featured in a 1985 episode of the MTV program The Cutting Edge featuring performers from Austin's "New Sincerity" music scene. Subsequently he performed at the 1985 Woodshock music festival in Austin, where he was featured in a short documentary of the festival, Woodshock.

Interest in Johnston increased when Kurt Cobain was frequently photographed wearing a t-shirt featuring the cover image of Johnston's album Hi, How Are You. In spite of Johnston being resident in a mental hospital at the time, a bidding war to sign him ensued. Atlantic Records won and released Fun, produced by Paul Leary of Butthole Surfers in 1994.

Also in the mid-1990s, Johnston contributed two songs to the soundtrack for Larry Clark's controversial film Kids, produced by Folk Implosion and Sebadoh's frontman, Lou Barlow. Johnston later covered Schoolhouse Rock!'s "Unpack Your Adjectives" for a compilation of the popular education songs called Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks in 1996.

In 2004, he released The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered, a two-disc compilation. The first disc featured Jad Fair, Eels, Bright Eyes, Calvin Johnson, Beck, Death Cab for Cutie, Sparklehorse, Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips and Tom Waits covering songs written by Johnston. The second disc featured Johnston's original recordings of the songs.

In 2005, Texas-based theater company Infernal Bridegroom Productions received a Multi-Arts Production/MAP Fund grant to work with Johnston to create a rock opera based on his music, titled Speeding Motorcycle.

A 2005, Dutchmarker documentary about Johnston for the TV series R.A.M. was followed in 2006 by The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Jeff Feuerzeig's documentary, four years in the making, collated some of the vast amount of recorded material Johnston (and in some case, others) had produced over the years to portray his life and music. The film won high praise, receiving the Director's Award at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. The film also inspired more interest in Johnston's work, such as the film's theme song, I Had Lost My Mind, and increased his pull as a touring artist.

In 2006, Johnston's own Eternal Yip Eye Music label released his first greatest hits compilation, Welcome to My World. He also appeared as the musical guest on The Henry Rollins Show on which he performed "Mask" and "Care Less" (the latter was exclusive to the internet).

Through the next few years Johnston toured extensively across the world, and continued to attract press attention. In 2008, Dick Johnston, Daniel's brother and manager, revealed that "a movie deal based on the artist's life and music had been finalized with a tentative 2011 release." He also said that a deal had been struck with the Converse company for a "signature series" Daniel Johnston shoe. Later, it was revealed by Daniel's brother Dick Johnston that Converse had dropped the plan. In late 2008, Adjustable Productions released Johnston's first concert DVD, The Angel and Daniel Johnston - Live at the Union Chapel, featuring a 2007 appearance in Islingtonmarker, Londonmarker.

On January 31, 2009, Daniel Johnston joined the band The Swell Season on a broadcast of Austin City Limits (previously recorded on September 28, 2008) to perform the song "Life in Vain".

His latest album, Is and Always Was, was released on October 6, 2009 on his Eternal Yip Eye Music record label.

Art career

Johnston's work is often made up of nightmarish mixtures of cartoon images making glib statements, drawn with felt tip pens on paper. Established characters such as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Captain America often sit side by side with his own creation on the page. Johnston has also produced more detailed work, including sketches and water paintings.

Johnston's visual art became increasingly highly regarded during the nineties and into the new millennium. Johnston's work can now command high prices and have been exhibited around the world, including prestigious events such as in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. His artwork is shown in galleries around the world, including exhibits in London's Aquarium Gallerymarker and New York's Clementine Gallery. both in 2006, and the 2008 Liverpool Biennialmarker. Currently his work is being exhibited as "The Museum of Love" at Verge Gallery in Sacramento, Californiamarker.

Johnston created a notable Austin landmark in 1993, when he painted a mural of the Hi, How Are You? frog (also known as "Jeremiah the Innocent") on the side of Sound Exchange located on the corner of 21st and Guadalupe (The Dragmarker). Locals have successfully endeavored to preserve the image when the building subsequently changed ownership to a Baja Fresh restaurant and more recently to a restaurant called Crave. In Spring 2008, a Jeremiah the Innocent collectible figurine was released in limited runs of four different colors.

New Media

Daniel Johnston worked with Dr. Fun Fun and Smashing Studios to develop an iPhone platformer game called "Hi, How Are You". The game is similar to Frogger, but features Johnston's art and music.



  1. [1]
  2. Barry Shank, Dissonant Identities: The Rock'N'Roll Scene in Austin, Texas (Wesleyan University Press, 1994), ISBN 9780819562760, p. 157-58 ( excerpt available at Google Books).
  3. [2]
  4. MAP Fund | Infernal Bridegroom Productions
  6. The Austin Chronicle article: " Off the Record: Music News".
  9. Daniel Johnston Frog Becomes Collectable Figurine
  10. Work of Daniel Johnston, Texas Artist, Inspires Video Game Retrieved 2009-10-01

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