Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bands I Love: Daniel Johnston


Daniel Johnston is probably one of the most successful manic depressive schizophrenic musicians you've never even heard of. I'm not exaggerating when I say he's totally crazy, but it's made for some wonderful music over the years. Daniel Johnston's music could probably best be described as insane folk singer-songwriter meanderings with flashes of brilliance. His first album was released in 1981 and he has been putting out albums every couple years since, despite his severe mental issues and being in and out of mental hospitals. I won't lie and say I love everything he's ever put out, but man, when he's on, he's on. It's like you know he couldn't write an entire album of songs as good as "Crazy Love" because it just wouldn't be fair. His episodes of genius are truly magical. He's a struggling dude and we're all just so damn lucky to get to experience the fruits of his internal conflicts.

The most obvious contemporary successful musician who clearly draws influence from Daniel Johnston is Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst. The first time someone played him for me, I was actually convinced he was mistakenly playing me Bright Eyes. Turns out, I was wrong! Don't worry, that's the only time that's ever happened, so it's okay. Otherwise I've been right 100% of the time in my life. Yep. I definitely wouldn't recommend Daniel Johnston to everyone- he's the absolute definition of an acquired taste. His sound is just totally bizarre on purpose. It challenges the boundaries of music and, at least for me, what I consider beautiful about music. His voice cracks and every album of his is full of imperfections. But that's what makes it special. I miss imperfections in music. The "real" quality of someone's voice. Plus, I'm a lyrics girl through and through, and Daniel Johnston plays right into that.

In 2004, he released The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered and Covered, a two disc set featuring his original songs, as well as 18 covers. It features covers by the likes of Bright Eyes (duh), Death Cab For Cutie, Teenage Fanclub, Eels, Tom Waits, etc. So when I tell you his influence is far reaching, I'm totally not kidding. This guy's music is deeply deeply influential on some of my favorite musicians, which is part of the reason why I love him so much. To inspire the greats is to be greater than great. STITCH THAT ON A PILLOW! One of my favorite stories about Daniel Johnston is that he refused to sign with Elektra records because Metallica was on the label and he was convinced they were possessed by Satan. FERREAL. Totally insane. And totally awesome.

These are my two favorite Daniel Johnston songs. Let's get weird.





carmen

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