It is with a heavy heart that we publish that indie-folk singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston has passed away today at the age of 58. CNN reports that Johnston “an advocate for mental health awareness who developed a strong following among other artists like Kurt Cobain and Tom Waits, died early Wednesday morning at his home outside of Houston, Texas according to Tom Gimbel, Johnston’s manager of over 25 years.” The Austin, Texas legend helped inspire countless musicians with his often eccentric performance style and honest nature. He leaves behind not only an array of indie-folk songs but also a legacy as an advocate for mental health. Having suffered from mental health issues himself, Johnston worked to support causes that raised awareness for the subject.
Johnston’s condition is discussed in the 2005 documentary film The Devil and Daniel Johnston which also served to bring the artist’s music to a wider audience, the film won an award at the Sundance Film Festival for best directing in a documentary. Johnston’s mental health organization, the Hi, How Are You? Project is meant to help spark “new conversations around mental health issues,” the organization is named after Johnston’s 1983 record of the same name. Austin Chronicle reports that Johnston died “following a presumed heart attack.” The singer-songwriter’s health had been worsening in the past few years.
With the Austin City Limits festival looming the following excerpt from CNN is poignant “In 2018, the city of Austin declared January 22 — Johnston’s birthday — to be ‘Hi, How Are You?’ Day. Named to commemorate Johnston’s 1983 album and famous frog mural, which lives at the site of a former record store in the Texas capitol’s downtown district, the event is also meant to encourage mental health support.” Austin, Texas and the world will surely miss this legend.