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Another fine article on my friend Daniel. I like that it focuses on his music. I have always felt privileged to have been there in that basement when his music all began First he was just beating on a piano. He had no lyrics and I asked him why {I think the first music he wrote was called “Dead Dog’s Eyeball Theme” it was just music. He said he couldn’t write lyrics. So for a very brief time I wrote some lyrics and he put them to music. Then he started writing his own lyrics. After going over one evening and hearing the 3 or 4 new songs he had written- my days of writing bad lyrics for him was over- his stuff was just so outstanding. Great memories of going over in the evening- and listening to the songs he had written that day. The songs were just pouring out of him.  He wrote from his experiences. He could inspiration anywhere and everywhere. Also no one not even Pattie Boyd has had as many songs inspired as Dan’s unrequited love Laurie.  His songwriting battling average was Ted Williams like. I can only think of a couple songs from those days that weren’t flat out great- and those were ones where he didn’t write from his experiences. The past few decades were difficult- he suffered with mental illness most of his adult life. As someone commented last week- he flourished as an artist not because of his mental illness but in spite of it..

Attached an obit from Pitchfork.


    • She was real- but there was never a relationship between the two. He was madly in love with her- met her in college. From what I’ve understood over the years she was of course flattered by his admiration of her- but she was soon pregnant and married to someone else-[in the songs- an undertaker- who was in real life-an undertaker} I never met the girl- she went to a different high school -Dan ran across her in college. In the doc- The Devil and Daniel Johnston- she appears at the film festival and they ‘reunite” for the first time in decades.

    • That such a great story. No one could make that up. I must watch that…I’ve seen exerpts but that is it. Jennifer wants to watch it because of the WV connection.
      I would guess he was a self-taught musician? I couldn’t see his personality taking lessons but I could be wrong.

    • It was all self-taught-the family had a piano in the basement and he started beating on it lol… You are right with his personality his taking lessons would have been frustrating for both teacher and student. .. he would sit at that piano all day writing songs in the early 80’s- from one day to the next I knew I would go over and and he’d have more songs. I can’t remember him ever saying “I didn’t write anything today!” and he wrote from his life experiences- I really don’t think he could have done a Paul McCartney and wrote an Eleanor Rigby- if he wrote a song like that there would have been a real Eleanor Rigby he knew not a made up person.

    • Lol most of the artists that we admire are self taught. I’ve thought about that…I guess it’s about breaking rules and being innovative. I’ve known some guys who couldn’t play a note unless it was in front of them. I never could understand that.

      That is incredible that he was that prolific. All of those old tapes from the eighties. I wonder if they are just lost or hopefully some has been transferred to something stable.
      His story is inspirational…making a name for himself from those low-quality cassette tapes.
      I guess that is the reason people could relate to his songs…they were real.

    • He destroyed a lot of stuff in the mid 80’s when he had problems down in Texas but not everything. I have a lot of tapes he made for me and other people have the same… it’s incredible but he didn’t have a machine to dub -so he would just make completely new tapes for people. .. the funny thing is- his best stuff is the tapes he made that cost- the price of a cassette recorder and a cassette tape. When he was with a band- good but not as great….. yes- I have an acquaintance whose brother went to ‘rock and roll school’- needless to say he never produced anything.

    • Hopefully, the people who have the rare ones will transfer them to cd or digital.
      That is something…that he just dubbed those tapes himself…geez.

      I heard the McDonalds story…that is dedication. It reminded me of Stephen Furst…Flounder from Animal House who delivered pizza and put his picture in every box for publicity.

    • I remember around 1994 or so when his major label album Fun came out- his parents were bringing him up by car for a visit-and he told me he had a bunch of copies of the new album [cd] and he of course had one for me. I don’t know how many he had but when he got here- as expected he didn’t have any left- when they stopped at restaurants along the way he of course gave them all out to people . I knew I’d have to order one anyway…

    • lol…Yea you knew before hand what would happen.
      Hans I’m drilling you like a reporter so excuse that lol… Was he child like? I don’t mean that in a bad way but super excited and would do things like he did that day?

    • No problem with the questions- he would get very excited about things- but he could be very up and down- it wasn’t diagnosed yet but he was manic depressive since probably junior high. He would get super excited and start talking rapid fire. He didn’t have that built in radar- unless proven otherwise he thought everyone was a good person- which got him into a few jams. He could be generous to a fault.

    • I’m happy he is getting so much press…wish it would have been when he was alive. He has probably made a lot of new fans in the last few days. He does sound like a nice guy…frustrating I’m sure also.

      I like a lot of his comic book art…some articles are highlighting that.

    • He was an artist before he was a musician- and over the years he did well with his art. Yes he could be frustrating but after it was clear that he had serious issues- it was easy to just kind of overlook some things. As my friend Helmet and I were saying the other day- when either of us were with him he never had a bad episode.

    • The people I’ve read that worked with him and knew him…seem to like him a lot and like you knew to expect certain things.

      I have a friend that was diagnosed Bi-Polar… We knew something was wrong with him since he was a teenager…we just expect certain things so I know what you mean.

  1. That was a nice article. I can’t imagine how you must feel, having been there encouraging him from the start. He touches people. I’m grieving and I didn’t know him at all.

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