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Daniel Johnston, indie singer-songwriter, dies at 58

12 September 2019

Daniel Johnston, the revered cult singer-songwriter who made an indelible mark on indie music with often harrowingly lovely songs, has died after suffering a heart attack, the Austin Chronicle reports. His passing, at the age of 58, was confirmed to The Austin Chronicle by Johnston's former manager Jeff Tartakov.

Johnston, born in 1961 in Sacramento, first found found cult fame in his adopted home city of Austin, where a mural he painted based on the cover of his 1983 cassette Hi, How Are You still stands as an officially designated cultural landmark. The singer was known for a bare, lo-fi aesthetic with cracking, reverb-laden vocals conveying personal lyrics. "Although he struggled with mental health issues for much of his adult life, Daniel triumphed over his illness through his prolific output of art and songs", a statement from Johnston's family read. Johnston's work has been covered by artists including the Flaming Lips, Yo La Tengo, Sparklehorse and Tom Waits.

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Johnston's most recent album was Space Ducks, a soundtrack to a comic book also by Johnston, which featured contributions from artists like Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Deer Tick, and Eleanor Friedberger, and was released in 2012. He had an extensive discography and released his music primarily on homemade cassette tapes that he passed out to people, a method which landed him an appearance on MTV series The Cutting Edge in 1985.

Johnston also had physical health issues, according to Gimbel, related to diabetes and the medications he'd taken all his life. He embarked on a final tour before retiring from public performances in 2017. The film outlined Johnston's struggles with manic depression and schizophrenia. The project is named for one of Johnston's albums.

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Johnston had been working on a new album with Austin-based producer Brian Beattie for "years" he told the Chronicle and Vulture reported in April that the album would be titled "If".

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Daniel Johnston, indie singer-songwriter, dies at 58