Daniel Johnston, a folk-rock singer-songwriter who was beloved by his fellow musicians and legions of fans, passed away on Wednesday from natural causes at the age of 58.
Johnston’s death was announced by his family, according to Rolling Stone magazine. He had reportedly been dealing recently with kidney malfunction on top of a longterm struggle with mental illnesses.
“A friend to all”
“The Johnston family is deeply saddened to announce the death of their brother, Daniel Johnston,” read a statement from the family. “He passed away from natural causes this morning at his home outside of Houston, Texas.
“Daniel was a singer, songwriter, an artist, and a friend to all. 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,” the statement continued. “He inspired countless fans, artists, and songwriters with his message that no matter how dark the day, ‘the sun shines down on me’ and ‘true love will find you in the end.'”
Johnston had reportedly been dealing with both mental and physical ailments for quite some time. He was previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and had also been hospitalized recently after suffering a serious fall.
“Keeping him healthy has been the struggle and when he’s not well, you deal with a different person,” the singer’s brother Dick told Rolling Stone, noting that Johnston had just returned home the day before after being temporarily hospitalized with a kidney malfunction.
“He was lucid and in good spirits,” Dick recalled of his brother. “As good as I’ve seen him in years. The [ankle] swelling was down and the problem looked good. He was happy to be home.”
A caretaker had attempted to check in on Johnston Tuesday evening, but Johnston refused help. He was discovered deceased in his room the next morning. There was no autopsy scheduled.
Beloved by fellow musicians
Johnston was born in California in 1961 and grew up in West Virginia, where he began his music career and released his first album in 1980. He relocated to Austin, Texas, in the early 1980s.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Johnston gained fame among his fellow rock musicians for his prolific songwriting and singing abilities. Numerous artists have paid homage to his work with respectful covers of his songs or collaborated with him on various tracks.
His last album was released in 2010 and he embarked upon his final tour in 2017. His fans will likely be pleased to learn that Johnston’s family has found a “trove” of previously unpublished work by the artist — perhaps as much as has been published, according to his brother — which will be sorted through and potentially released at a future date.
Johnston has been described by many of his fellow artists as a true inspiration, particularly in how he refused to let his limitations get in the way of his music.