Daniel Johnston: A Tribute To the Lo-fi Cassette King

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It wasn’t until I opened Instagram after a long and exhausting day at school that I saw that one of my favorite artist had passed away. He had suffered a heart attack at 58 years old.

Back in 2015, when I was still going through my angsty teenage years I came across Johnston music for the first time through Medianeras, which became one of my favorite films and I cannot recommend it enough. That’s when I became captivated by the song “True Love Will Find You In The End.”

Born in Sacramento, California Johnston started his career in his early high school years. His first LP Songs of Pain was first released in 1981, the same that was made in his basement with an old tape recorder, something that still characterizes Johnston’s music. He attended Kent State University where he studied art and met people with his similar interests. At the beginning, Johnston would just pass his homemade lo-fi cassettes to his family and friends but his success arose in the late 80s when he appeared on MTV’s The Cutting Edge.

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He released seventeenth full-length albums that were written and sang by him, including three home-recorded tapes from 1983: More Songs of Pain, Yip/Jump Music, and Hi, How Are You. A few of my favorites songs include: “The Story Of An Artist,” “Living Life” and “Walking The Cow.” Johnston songs has also been covered and served as inspiration to many other great artist such as Tom Waits, Yo La Tengo, The Flaming Lips, and Bright eyes, among others.

Johnston was a passionate artist with an immense heart and complex mind. He was also a really good illustrator. His iconic album “Hi, How Are You” became such an iconic drawing that Kurt Cobain used to wear a shirt featuring the cover image of the album. Johnston also did a mural with the same illustration in a popular street in Austin, TX.

Johnston songs really speaks to your heart. His lyrics are filled with honesty, humor and complex feelings such as love and despair. Despite of battling with his own demons throughout his entire life, he always remained positive that at some point things will get better. He inspired many young artist including countless of fans and songwriters with his poetic lyrics. At the end, Johnston wasn’t only a singer, songwriter, illustrator and poet, he was a prophet of love. He will be forever remembered in all the hearts that he touched with his magical songs.

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Cinthya Franco