Daniel Johnston

 

Daniel Johnston was born in Sacramento, California on January the 22nd, 1961, the fifth child of a close-knit and deeply religious family (Church of Christ). He grows up in West Virginia, learns to play the piano with the help of his siblings and devotes to drawing since he is very young by copying comics books heroes who transfigure his father’s experience as a soldier. Once graduated he enrolls at Kent State University to major in art and meets Laurie the girl he made the very symbol of love and everything beautiful; despite engaged to someone else Daniel wrote for her the songs that would eventually be Songs of Pain, the first of a long list of tapes recorded on a simple tape recorder by overdubbing all the instruments and the voice and that the loved to give to friends and casual bystanders. Quite early impeded by a bipolar disorder whose depressive phases had already manifested during his youth Johnston leaves university and after a few ups and downs he settles in Houston, Texas where he gains the favors of the artistic and musical scene. Here he gives his first concerts, manages to appear on Mtv a couple of times, experiments with lsd and undergoes his first hospitalization from which he is discharged with prescriptions for some mood stabilizers. Daniel’s life will be from this moment to 1996/7 marked by an almost regular alternation of depressive and manic phases and by a complex relation to medications which fail to stop the outburst of paranoid-psychotic behaviors: the violent attempt to exorcise an old lady, the vandalizing of the Statue of Liberty with an anti-Satan graffiti, the panic about Satan controlling his father who is piloting the plane they are flying on. Beside great successes: his first studio album in 1992, Artistic Vice, only a few months after the avoided plane tragedy, the appreciation of famous musicians, the interest of major record labels. His art, exhibited since 1997 in collective shows was selected for 2006 Whitney Biennial and is now showed in galleries around the world; his music was celebrated by many artists on tribute-records as Discovered Covered: The Late Great Daniel Johnston; his life became a Sundance winning documentary film by Jeff Feuerzeig in 2005.

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