Daniel Johnston, Enigmatic Singer-Songwriter, Is Dead at 58


Daniel Johnston, a singer-songwriter and visual artist whose childlike, haunted songs brought him acclaim as one of America’s most gifted outsider voices, died in his home in Waller, Tex., outside Houston. He was 58.

His brother and manager, Dick, said in an interview that Mr. Johnston was found on Wednesday morning and had probably died overnight.

Mr. Johnston had been released from the hospital on Tuesday, after being treated for kidney issues. “He was still productive, writing songs and drawing, and was just annoyed by his health more than anything,” his brother said. “It was just one thing after another.”

In a career that was filled with stops and starts, Mr. Johnston became something of a man-child celebrity of the artistic underground, earning the admiration of rock stars like Kurt Cobain and Tom Waits as well as comparisons to William Blake. His cartoon drawings — frequently inspired by characters like Casper the Friendly Ghost — were included in the Whitney Biennial exhibition in 2006.

Yet Mr. Johnston had been dogged by mental health problems that stunted his career and periodically hospitalized him. In recent years he had largely been confined to his family’s home.

Besides his brother Dick, he is survived by three sisters, Margy Johnston, Sally Reid and Cindy Brewer.

Joe Coscarelli contributed reporting.



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