Daniel Johnston is a troubled soul with a talent for writing honest, disarmingly direct songs. Kurt Cobain famously wore a T-shirt with the title of a Johnston cassette on it, while Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips ranks among his many musical admirers. M. Ward, Beck and countless others have covered his songs.
Johnston has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, and he's been institutionalized, but these days he travels and performs. It's amazing to see and hear a spark of candor in what he does, all while he's shaking like a scared child. There's an odd sort of curiosity to watching Johnston perform, but it's easy to root for him: He's endearing and sloppy and unmistakably talented. His talents extend to drawings, which can be found in issue No. 1 of a comic book called Space Ducks; the project has also spawned an album and an app. That app is filled with Johnston's animated drawings and songs, as well as the voices of some of his famous friends.
Performing at the NPR Music offices, Johnston is joined here by friend and accompanist Shai Halperin, who doubles as the recording artist known as Sweet Lights.
- "Mean Girls Give Pleasure"
- "Sense Of Humor"
- "American Dream"
- "True Love Will Find You In The End"
Producer and Editor: Bob Boilen; Videographer: Michael Katzif; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; photo by Claire O'Neill/NPR