At Prima Dora, we were saddened to hear of the recent passing of musician and artist Daniel Johnston, an amazing DIY musician who for many years was closely affiliated with the local Austin music scene. In honor of Daniel's passing, we wanted to share this lovely NPR Tiny Desk concert, which features renditions of the songs "Mean Girls Give Pleasure", "Sense of Humor", "American Dream", and "True Love Will Find You in the End."
Johnston moved to Austin in the eighties; and it was from Austin that Daniel Johnston recorded music in his home studio that went on to become legendary in the indie and DIY music scene, including the albums "More Songs of Pain", "Yip/Jump Music" and "Hi, How Are You?". During that time he began to develop a cult following, as he donned his McDonald's work attire and passed out tapes to strangers at local music venues such as The Beach Cabaret.
His biggest break came in the early nineties, when Kurt Cobain wore a "Hi, How Are You?" shirt to the MTV music awards, and Daniel's growing notoriety led to a major label record deal with Atlantic. It was during the same time period that Daniel Johnston was commissioned by local Austin record store Sound Exchange, to paint a mural at 21st and Guadalupe streets. He chose to recreate his iconic character, Jeremiah the Innocent, famous from the cover of Johnston's signature album, "Hi, How Are You?"
In the 2000's, following a failed attempt at commercial success with Atlantic Records and a series of mental health struggles, Daniel's fame continued to grow. He released more albums, created a comic book, displayed his art internationally, inspired a video game, and was the subject of the 2005 documentary "The Devil and Daniel Johnston", which received the director's award at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. His songs were covered by major artists including Tom Waits, Beck, the Flaming Lips, and Yo La Tengo, and he continued to tour through 2017.
Daniel Johnston was a remarkable human being who wrote remarkable songs. Although he is gone, we remain grateful for the wonderful songs he gifted to the world. Rest in peace Daniel.