Daniel Johnston, eccentric singer-songwriter, dead at 58

CREDIT Jana Birchum  Getty Images

"Daniel was a singer, songwriter, an artist, and a friend to all". Johnston died this week.

Eccentric US indie rock singer Daniel Johnston has died at 58.

Johnston struggled with mental health issues throughout his life, and an organization "inspiring new conversations around mental health issues" called "The Hi, How Are You Project" was founded by Gimbel and Courtney Blanton with the support of Daniel Johnston and his family. "He passed away from natural causes this morning at his home outside of Houston, Texas".

His sister, Margy Johnston, told the Austin Chroniclein 2018 that he had been physically unwell in recent years; in a 2017 profile, The New York Times reported that he had struggled with diabetes, a kidney infection and hydrocephalus, in addition to the manic depression and schizophrenia that he bore for most of his adult life.

Johnston was born in Sacramento, CA, and lived in West Virginia before moving to Austin and beginning his underground music career.

The late singer served as inspiration for many musical cultural icons, including Kurt Cobain, Tom Waits, Sonic Youth and the Flaming Lips.

Johnston emerged as a cult favorite in the the 1980s - partially by passing out homemade tapes around town, including in a McDonald's - and even appeared on MTV in 1985, but it wasn't until the early '90s, when Nirvana's Kurt Cobain started appearing in a t-shirt bearing the cover of Johnston's "Hi, How Are You?" album that Johnston's fame took off.

He was beloved as a visual artist and cartoonist, too: In 2006, the Whitney Museum chose him for its famed Biennial. He was the subject of a 2005 documentary, "The Devil and Daniel Johnston".

"There were very few unsafe rock and roll shows left in the world where you really don't know what to expect", Gimbel said of Johnston's notoriously unpredictable stage presence.

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