I saw the movie The Devil and Daniel Johnston a few days ago and was greatly touched by it. I have been listening to his music for some years and I have always liked the emotional sensible pop songs with the personal texts about unrequited love and existential torment. The movie tells the story of Daniel’s life from the lo-fi cassettes he handled out in the early 80s over a series of breakdowns to his recent life together with his mam and dad.
From young years Daniel wanted to be an artist; “When I was 19, I wanted to be the Beatles. I was disappointed when I found out I couldn’t sing.” But the fundamental Christian parents were not happy about him wanting to be an artist. Here’s some lines from the song “Story of an artist”:
“Listen up and I’ll tell a story
About an artist growing old
Some would try for fame and glory
Others aren’t so bold
Everyone, and friends and family
Saying, “Hey! Get a job!”
“Why do you only do that only?
Why are you so odd?
We don’t really like what you do.
We don’t think anyone ever will.
It’s a problem that you have,
And this problem’s made you ill.”
Daniel Johnston has been fighting with the devils inside and a manic depression through his life. With the help of modern medications he has eventually achieved stability.
Side by side with his music Daniel Johnston has been drawing expressive comic book-style figures in battles against Satan and evil demons. Like portraits of his own inner struggles.
He breaks my heart. The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a truly unforgettable story.