Daniel Johnston (1961-2019)


Kass Jones

Musical brilliance, Daniel Johnston, passed away at 58 this past Wednesday with a generous
catalogue of artwork left behind in his name. His passing, for many, brought light to his often
overshadowed and underappreciated career. Born in 1961, his official musical career started in
the late 70s’ to early 80s’; releasing demo-tape style albums that would continue in this form for
the rest of his discography. In 1983, the release of his fan-beloved and critically acclaimed
record, Hi, How Are You began his rise to fame. 32 years later, a short-film adaptation with the
same name released for free with the launch of Johnston’s website hihowareyou.com. Hi, How
Are You (2015) was produced by fellow experimental artists: Mac Miller and Lana Del Rey. The
success of the film and website brought attention to Johnston and the artists he has most clearly
inspired today and to come.

From an artistic standpoint, Johnston’s work is everywhere. He is an inspiration in all fields.
Musically, Johnston is praised for his honest and simplistic lyrics and instrumentation that artists:
Lana Del Rey, Cage the Elephant, Mac Demarco, and Lady Gaga have all credited as a great
inspiration and help to their career. Johnston is often overlooked by the fame of those he has
inspired. The question arises here: “just because he was not as famous as most after him, does

this mean he should not be held with the same importance and praise?” The simple answer is
“no”. Johnston’s career pushed music into new directions like the birth of alternative and lo-fi
music. However, the not so simple answer is “Johnston never wanted fame”. His original style,
impressive discography, and list of artists moved by him are achievements that are impressive
enough. Fame was never important to the late artist; the music was what was important. All of
Johnston’s music was produced, written, and recorded at low budget because there was no need
for professional construction in this music. The music was always enough for Johnston.