Daniel Johnston. You may not recognize his name, but you’ve probably heard his music. You may have even seen his “Hi How are you” frog, an iconic image of Austin, Texas. Daniel Johnston started his artistic and musical career in his basement, but he’s influenced and been covered by acts such as Beck, Death Cab for Cutie, and Pearl Jam. So what brought this world-renowned songwriter to play a free concert in Alumni last Friday on February the 10th? As it so happens, one of our own musical faculty, Dr. Sally Reed, is the sister of Daniel Johnston. Thanks to this connection, Lipscomb’s music department was able to put on one of its most unique and highly attended performances of the year, with a crowd of over 700. Johnston was glad to be able to perform in a venue where people of all ages were able to attend.
In addition to his performance on the 10th, Johnston’s art will be featured in an exhibit in the Hughes center through March 15th. Johnston has suffered from schizophrenia and manic depression since his 20s, which has had a large effect on his music and art. His art is full of the angst that goes hand in hand with his ongoing struggle with manic depression. From vibrant cartoon images to the prolific struggle between good and evil, it leaves the viewer yearning to learn more of the mystery. Some would call his pieces a trendy interpretation; others say it is a trip through his though process, or of a man searching for sanity. Even after a lifetime of albums and artwork, Johnston is still excited about his future prospects, especially in working with comics.
Zac Swann, Michael Do, Mack Hoskins, and yours truly Clay Smith, were privileged enough to actually perform as Johnston’s backup band for the latter part of his set. As the Nashville Scene put it, we’re going to “Have cooler stories than everyone else we graduate with."
Daniel Johnston: an incredibly talented individual with a crazy story, and one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.