Daniel Johnston in 2012 (photo via Wikipedia)
Daniel Johnston, the Austin-based singer-songwriter who was frequently classified as an “outsider” artist and who influenced more than one generation of musicians, died of a reported heart attack on Tuesday evening. His passing, at the age of 58, was confirmed to The Austin Chronicle by Johnston’s former manager Jeff Tartakov.
Johnston was born in Sacramento, CA, and lived in West Virginia before moving to Austin and beginning his underground music career. The singer was known for a bare, lo-fi aesthetic with cracking, reverb-laden vocals conveying personal lyrics. Johnston battled mental health issues for much of his life and spent time under institutional care even as his music was inspiring the likes of Kurt Cobain, whose interest in Johnston helped shed more light on his work in the 1990s.
Johnston’s songs have been covered and revered by an array of artists, including The Flaming Lips and Yo La Tengo—both of whom played at Austin’s “Hi, How Are You” Day event to promote mental health awareness last year—along with Tom Waits, Lana Del Rey and more (Del Rey was an executive producer on the short 2015 biopic on Johnston, Hi, How Are You Daniel Johnston?). Johnston’s Austin mural of a frog, the same minimalist artwork that appears on his 1983 album Hi, How Are You, is a landmark in the city.
Johnston’s final album, Space Ducks, a soundtrack to his comic of the same name, came out in 2012 and featured guests like Deer Tick and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. As The Austin Chronicle notes, Johnston was also working on a new album with Austin’s Brian Beattie as of last year.
Listen to a playlist of Johnston’s most well-known music below.