Daniel Johnston, folk singer and artist, dies at age 58

Darryl Coote

Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Daniel Johnston, a singer-songwriter and visual artist whose work attracted the praise of Kurt Cobain and Tom Waits, among others, died Wednesday at his home in Texas, his family said. He was 58.

"The Johnston family is deeply saddened to announce the death of their brother, Daniel Johnston," his family said in a statement published by Rolling Stone. "He passed away from natural causes this morning at his home outside Houston, Texas."


The famed U.S. folksinger's death followed reports that his health, both physical and mental, had been deteriorating over the past several years.

Johnston, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, was released from the hospital Tuesday after receiving treatment for kidney issues.

His brother and manager, Dick Johnston, said in an interview with the magazine that it had been a struggle to keep him healthy and when he wasn't well, he was a different person, but he was "lucid and in good spirits" after he returned home from his recent hospital stay.

"As good as I've seen him in years," he said. "The [ankle] swelling was down and the problem looked good. He was happy to be home."


Though originally from West Virginia, Johnston is most commonly associated with Texas, where he moved to in the 1980s.

During his sporadic music career, Johnston released 17 full-length albums, several of which were released in the early '80s with a spattering of four released in the past 19 years. There is at least one LP that has not yet been released, The Austin Chronicle reported.

He was also a visual artist, known for creating childish cartoon characters with Magic Marker, with his most iconic piece, the "Hi How Are You" mural of a frog seemingly rendered with a black Sharpie, painted on a wall in Austin. His work was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

"Not only was Daniel Johnston a legendary musician and artist who so authentically embodied Austin's soul and spirit, he also inspired many in our community to fight stigma associated with mental health issues," Austin Mayor Steve Adler said via Twitter. "Austin will miss you."

As news of his death spread online, artists from various genre and medium expressed their grief, including comedian and director Judd Apatow, director Mark Duplass, musician Beck, the members of rock band Death Cab for Cutie and singer-songwriter Zola Jesus.


"There are not enough words I can say about the important and vitality of Daniel Johnston's musical spirit," Jesus said on Twitter. "He was a huge inspiration to me, to follow my creative impulses no matter how mess or simple. RIP."

In the statement, his family described Johnston as "a friend to all" and he was able to overcome his mental and physical challenges through his art and music.

"He inspired countless fans, artists and songwriters with his message that no matter how dark the day, 'the sun shines down on me' and 'true love will find you in the end,'" his family said.

Notable deaths of 2019

Jerry Herman
Jerry Herman listens to remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama as the president and First Lady Michelle Obama host the 2010 Kennedy Center Honorees at a reception in the East Room of the White House on December 5, 2010. The Tony-award winning composer died on December 26, 2019, at the age of 88. File Pool Photo by Gary Fabiano/UPI | License Photo

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