The world lost a songwriting legend this week when Austin-based musician Daniel Johnston died from a heart attack at age 58. Johnston, whose battles with depression and mental illness are detailed in the 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston, became an inspiration to many, breaking into the public conscious when Kurt Cobain wore one of his shirts to the 1992 VMAs.
But aside from the mythologizing about Johnston’s mental state, odd behavior, and eccentricities, what kept him inspiring generations of musicians was his ability to completely and beautifully pour himself into his songs. Johnston’s high, fragile voice may waver on “True Love Will Find You in the End” as he ponders his loneliness and heartbreak. But he encourages himself and listeners to keep going despite hardships, promising that things will eventually work out. They have to, right?
If the many online tributes (including this one) in his memory are any indication, in the end, Daniel was truly loved. —Bob Marshall