Singer-Songwriter Daniel Johnston Dies at Age 58

By Samuel Allegri

Singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston died on Sept. 11, at age 58, of a presumed heart attack.

A Facebook page named Daniel Johnston posted a statement about his death:

“It is with very heavy hearts that we share the news of Daniel’s passing this morning. One thing we know to be true in this sad time, in Daniel’s words, ‘True love will find you in the end,'” the page stated.

“Daniel was a singer, songwriter, an artist, and a friend to all. Although he struggled with mental health issues for much of his adult life, Daniel triumphed over his illness through his prolific output of art and songs. He inspired countless fans, artists, and songwriters with his message that no matter how dark the day that “the sun shines down on me” and “true love will find you in the end,” the statement said.

According to a website dedicated to Johnston’s work, he received acclaim for “a series of homemade, lo-fi cassettes which Daniel started recording and handing out to fans and friends alike in the early 80s.”

The webpage also said that part of his story and lore stemmed from his heartbreaking experience with a woman who he loved, but she ended up marrying an undertaker.

The website shared how Johnston moved to Austin and eventually made recordings in “almost-proper studios.”

The Austin Chronicle reported that, according to his sister, Johnston had been experiencing significant worsening health in recent years.

Johnston’s mental health issues were widely known. He was hospitalized for schizophrenia, according to Pitchfork.

An article titled, ‘His life is troubling, his fame disturbing’ by the Boston Globe, sad “Daniel Johnston is a gifted musical talent and a deeply ill man: The two are inextricably entwined.”

According to Texas Monthly, his mental problems caused “violent psychotic explosions in which he has almost killed himself and others, including his father.”

Variety reported that while Johnston was traveling to a music festival in 1990, he suffered a psychotic episode mid-flight. He had removed the plane’s ignition key forcing his father, who was the pilot, to crash-land. It was after this incident that Johnston was committed to a mental hospital.

In the documentary titled “The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” he is described as “a mentally ill singer-songwriter and artist” who “diagnoses himself as a manic depressive with grand illusions.”

Johnston wanted to be like The Beatles, “When I was 19, I wanted to be The Beatles. I was disappointed when I found out I couldn’t sing,” he said.

After Daniel’s death, Dick Johnston, Daniel’s older brother, said on Facebook, “I always wanted Danny to feel like his own person, and in control of his own life. Since beginning to work and travel with him in about 2003, we gratefully were able to travel the entire globe for over a decade to get out before the fans. He was always, everywhere, warmly received and he at least knew he was well loved. Health issues have plagued us for years, but I’m glad for the time we had.”