Daniel Johnston, the eccentric singer-songwriter who was beloved by many fans in spite of — or even because of — his battles with mental health issues, has died at 58. His hometown newspaper, the Austin Chronicle, confirmed with Johnston’s former manager, Jeff Tartakov, that the artist died of a heart attack Tuesday night.
Johnston released 17 albums and was revered by artists like Kurt Cobain, Tom Waits, the Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo, many of whom who covered lo-fi songs that encompassed significant whimsy and great angst. He was the subject of a 2005 documentary, “The Devil and Daniel Johnston.”
Johnston went on what was billed as his last tour in 2017, although in a New York Times profile, he denied believing that it would be his swan song. “Why would it be?” he asked
As the Times put it then, “the idea of him quitting the road isn’t unreasonable. He has battled manic depression and schizophrenia most of his adult life, and in recent years endured multiple physical ailments, including diabetes, a kidney infection and hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid on his brain caused him to frequently lose his balance. In the last year, his mental health also worsened. … Mr. Johnston’s psychiatric treatment has required extended stays at inpatient facilities, and although he now lives with some degree of independence, he requires considerable assistance.”