Daniel Johnston dies aged 58 – music world reflects on the impact of a cult hero


Daniel Johnson at Liverpool Music Week 2009

As news filters through about the passing of Daniel Johnson, fans across the globe are sharing memories of a cult hero, Getintothis’ Lewis Ridley reports.

The influential cult singer-songwriter and visual artist Daniel Johnston was reported to have died from a heart attack, his former manager Jeff Tartakov confirmed to The Austin Chronicle.

Johnston was a prolific musician, recording numerous albums primarily on homemade cassette tapes and was known for his sincere and childlike music.

Born in Sacramento, California, Johnston began creating music in high school, recording piano, vocals, and chord organ on a boombox.

He cultivated a cult following by handing out his demos before being diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1990 before being involuntarily committed to a mental hospital after playing at a music festival in Austin, Texas in 1990.

Kurt Cobain brought attention to his music worldwide by sporting his ‘Hi, How Are You’ artwork on a T-shirt with Atlantic Records signing him on a major label deal.

In 2004, he released the compilation The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered with renditions of his work by TV on the Radio, Jad Fair, Bright Eyes, Tom Waits, Death Cab for Cutie, Beck, Sparklehorse, and more. In 2005, Jeff Feuerzieg directed the award-winning documentary about his life called The Devil and Daniel Johnston.

Getintothis Mental Health Awareness Week 2019

Johnston played Liverpool Music Week in 2009 at the then-named Masque Theatre, now the Arts Club alongside a.P.A.t.T. and other Liverpool outliers.

In 2018, the city of Austin honoured Johnston by naming January 22 “Hi, How Are You?” Day.

As the news filtered through on Tuesday evening, artists and fans alike shared memories of Johnston on social media.