For whatever reason, I’ve been talking to multiple people about cover songs lately. So a few minutes ago, I was feeling inspired. See, I was trying to put together a little compilation/mixtape of my favorite covers… and then I got sucked in to listening to the original versions. And then I realised that most of the songs covered came from one artist in particular: Daniel Johnston.
You may or may not know anything about him, as he’s done a good job of… never quite achieving the level of fame he sought. I am not saying he’s the most current or relevant artist anymore, but I do agree with many people that he is one of the greatest living songwriters. And now that I have a blog to use as a platform for reverse-brainwashing the masses, I think it’s a good idea to shove some of this guy down your throat.
Since this started out as me thinking about cover songs, the first thing I’d like to say (this is the part where I try and suck you in by dropping names that make your mouth water.) is that Daniel Johnston has been covered by a vast array of brilliant artists, including: Bright Eyes, Death Cab For Cutie, Tom Waits, The Flaming Lips, Built To Spill, Beck, Wilco, TV On The Radio, Pearl Jam, and a bunch of others. He has collaborated with Jad Fair, Butthole Surfers, members of Sonic Youth, and Dead Milkmen. And for the kids like me who were teenagers in the 1990s, (that dead guy) Kurt Cobain said numerous times that Daniel was his favorite songwriter. He has been putting music out since the early 1980s and, although he’s clearly gotten old beyond his age, he seems to still have a lot of beautiful songs to sing.
A few years ago, someone finally put out a documentary called The Devil And Daniel Johnston. It is a truly gutwrenching look at the life of an artist that has been forever tomented by his own demons. As a person who has also suffered my own share of nervous breakdowns, scaring the shit out of my loved ones, and alienating almost everyone I’ve met in my life… I can relate to this man. But even the perfectly healthy folk seem to dig his songs or, at worst, enjoy his insanity in some kind of novel way. Anyway. Here is the trailer for The Devil and Daniel Johnston:
I’m not saying you need to immediately go out and rent this film. I really just posted that trailer because some people need visual enhancements in order to get through long, ranty posts like this one. BUT!! If the film looks interesting, give it a try. You can probably even download it online, without even getting your fat ass out the house.
Anyway. I don’t want to talk too much about this, as the music does a much better job of speaking for itself. So I will leave you with a few covers of Daniel’s songs, and a few of his actual songs.
If people show some interest in this post, I will gladly put up more of his music for everyone to hear.
My Life Is Starting Over Again
(covered by Teenage Fanclub w/ Jad Fair)
Walking The Cow
(covered by TV On The Radio)
True Love Will Find You In The End
(covered by Beck)
Daniel Johnston – Dream Scream
Daniel Johnston – Like a Monkey In The Zoo
Daniel Johnston – Story of an Artist