Saturday, December 24th, 2005 -
WALLER, TX - Song writer / singer / artist Daniel Johnston was
released from Methodist Hospital in Houston on Friday. The
artist had been rushed to the hospital by emergency vehicle the day
before Thanksgiving unable to speak or walk, and had family members and
fans fearing the worse.
musician has received increasing attention in the last few years as a
artist / songwriter struggling with mental illness between bouts with
fame from his songs of love and pain, and his compelling art.
While in the hospital (and unknown to Daniel) the Whitney
Museum of American Art announced that his art would be featured in the
prestigious 2006 Biennial, giving him a permanent place in the American
Art world. Daniel shares this honor along with six other
Texans: photographer Amy Blakemore of Houston; the four-member Otabenga
Jones group (Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Jamal Cyrus, Robert Pruitt and
Kenya Evans), also of Houston; and photographer and draftsman Troy
Brauntuch from Austin.
with humble beginnings on the streets of Austin, Texas handing out
cassette tapes to passers-by, Daniel Johnston gained increasing
attention as an ingenious songwriter. His bouts with notoriety
included several MTV appearances.
Over the years, Daniel had acquired an
impressive list of supporters, including Kurt Cobain (who frequently
wore Daniel's now-famous "Hi How Are You" t-shirt), Matt Groening of
"The Simpsons" fame, and countless musicians. Last year, eighteen
musicians honored the songwriter with a 2-CD album covering his songs,
"Discovered Covered" by Gammon Records.
In January of this year, "The Devil and Daniel Johnston"
by film director Jeff Feuerzeig premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
The feature length documentary used interviews and astounding archive
video and audio in a portrayal of the artist's genius and struggle with
manic depression. The film has been licensed by Sony Pictures
Classic and slated for release in North America March 31, 2006.
Daniel's sudden illness was something of a mystery and
produced broad speculation. The artist is a borderline diabetic,
but he also takes a regiment of medications to stabilize the
manic-depression. It was feared that the medications that allowed
him to live productively could prove fatal. First reports
indicated the problem was lithium poisoning..
Lithium is the
prescription medication used to stabilize patients like Daniel who
struggle with bi-polar disorder. Daniel's behavioral episodes with
the illness have resulted in a total of five years in mental
institutions. He has been living at home with his parents in
Waller, Texas for fifteen years because new medications had stabilized
As recently as last
week, family members were advised that Daniel would require long-term
medical care and permanent dialysis for kidney failure. But early
this week that prognosis changed drastically and the artist is now at
home with functioning kidneys and a renewed zeal for pursuing his
songwriting and art.
describe the episode as a serious infection that caused kidney failure
and resulted in dangerous distortion of prescription medications in his
system. The infection proved to be highly resistant to
antibiotics and prolonged the uncertainty of the cause and his recovery.
In the hospital, Daniel had a wall covered with cards,
pictures, letters, and emails from supportive fans, which he reportedly
packed up to take home with him on Friday. "I didn't know
where I was or how I got there," Daniel is reported to say after weeks
of semi-conscious state. "But this has happened to me plenty of
This is a both a
reference to memories of waking up in a mental institutions and that he
sometimes wakes up in some part of the world performing on tour and is
uncertain where he is, his brother explained.
On the ride home, Daniel was exuberant. "Hallelujah!
Freedom! I feel like an escaped mental patient."
Sunday, December 11th, 2005 - WALLER,
TX - Daniel Johnston is reported to remain in critical care eighteen
days after emergency medical teams transported him to the Tomball
Regional hospital in Waller, Texas. Family members summoned
emergency crews the day before Thanksgiving when the acclaimed
songwriter / artist became incoherent and unable to stand.
His condition is now described as improved and stable, although he had
been moved to another hospital and remains in critical care.
The Texas song-writer / artist was know for his
lo-fidelity cassette recordings handed out in Austin in the 80's and
bouts with mental illness that dogged his songwriting career.
Daniel acquired a respectable following around the world for his music
and art, but increasing attention has been seen in just the last few
In 2004, Gammon Records
released a tribute album "Discovered Covered - the Late Great Daniel
Johnston", which had eighteen prominent artist cover Daniel's music,
including Tom Waits, Beck, and The Eels.
Then this year a major documentary film
has made the rounds of film festivals, beginning with award-winning
recognition at Sundance Film Festival in January. "The Devil
and Daniel Johnston" chronicles the songwriter's career and struggle
with manic depression or bi-polar disorder. It is slated for
release by Sony Pictures Classic in March 2006.
Original reports on Mr. Johnston's condition said there
was apparent lithium poisoning and an infection. Lithium
carbonate is the drug used to stabilize bi-polar patients.
Lithium levels must be monitored to assure they don't get too high.
Daniel's treatments were monitored monthly.
Subsequent statements mentioned infection, partial kidney
failure, and possible lithium poisoning. Rumors of brain damage or
coma now appear unfounded since the artist is improved and speaking with
William Johnston, said Daniel was speaking and drinking coke through a
straw, but would be in the hospital for several more weeks at least.
Asked if he would be home for Christmas, Daniel's father said, "That
would be nice."
Friday, December 2nd, 2005 - WALLER,
TX - Texas artist / singer / songwriter Daniel Johnston was admitted
to Tomball Regional Medical Center in Tomball, Texas on November 23rd.
After ten days in the hospital, his condition is reported as stable but
Daniel Johnston appeared
on the Austin music scene in the mid 80's, issuing his hand-made
cassette tapes to any passers-by who would take them. With
this humble beginning and employed at the local McDonalds, Daniel
produced his musical creations using whatever music making tools were
around, and edged his way into the limelight. This included an
appearance on MTV's "The Cutting Edge" when they arrived in Austin in
1986. His material was hailed as "genius" by locals, notable
musicians and a growing circle of celebrities.
However his career suffered systematic setbacks. In
due course these were attributed to a struggle with mental illness.
Usually labeled "manic depressive" or "bi-polar", the musician / artist
was subject to delusional states of high followed by overwhelming
depression. He alternately appeared or disappeared from the
music scene and usually with some incident involving a brush with the
law or the physical peril of friends or family. The events
only fueled the lore about this mysterious artist.
But Daniel has paid a high price for his
notoriety if because of his mental illness. Daniel reported
he has spent a total of over five years in mental institutions.
In the 90's, his condition stabilized and it appeared
that modern medication enabled him to enjoy a period of freedom from
depression or manic states. In the last six years he
released four albums and toured the US, Canada, Japan, and Europe.
Two other completed albums are said to have completed production and are
But now it seems
the same medications that made Daniel stable may be at the root of his
current illness. His father reported last week that it could be
lithium poisoning resulting from a partial kidney failure and a buildup
of the prescription medications in his system. Lithium is
regarded as a miracle drug because of it's effect in helping various
mental illnesses, but it can be lethal.
His hospitalization precedes the pending
release of a major documentary on the cult artist, "The Devil and Daniel
Johnston". The film by director Jeff Feuerzeig chronicles the
artist's struggle with mental illness and his tumultuous bouts with fame.
The director used astounding archival material and interviews with
family and friends that captures major points of his life with
reality-TV presence. The film has already received awards at this
year's Sundance film festival, and continued to show at festivals around the
globe where it has received other awards. Sony Pictures Classic
has announced the official release of the feature-length film for March
31, 2006. Tartan Film has also announced a March 2006
release of the film in the United Kingdom.
In 2004, Gammon Records orchestrated an astounding 2-CD
tribute album where eighteen artists covered one of Daniel's songs, and
the second CD contained the original recording by Daniel. The
artists performing Daniel's music include Jad Fair and Teen Age Fan Club,
Clem Snide, M Ward, Calvin Johnson, T.V. on the Radio, and Tom Waits.
This music has made headway in the industry by commercial use, and by
Beck's rendering of "True Love Will Find You In The End" that aired on
Fox TV's "The O.C."
Daniel's songs is apparently a popular passion, although it was
probably championed in 1994 by another Austin, Texas music legend,
songwriter / singer Kathy McCarty. The 1994 album "Dead
Dog's Eyeballs" was re-released this year by Bar-None records along with
a new album of original songs by McCarty, "Another Day In The Sun."
Daniel's acclaim had long been predicted by a long list
of supporters including well-known names like Davie Bowie, Yo La Tengo,
Johnny Depp, Kurt Cobain, and Matt Groening, creator of the Simpsons.
A strong fan base and Daniel's increasing renown in the
industry has created something of a buzz about this hospitalization and
the true condition of the overweight and reclusive 44 year old.
Rumors of brain damage and coma appear premature, and Daniel's
father, Bill Johnston, says that neither term describes his state nor
has he heard any such thing from any medical staff.
Speculation seems to be the order of the day as no clear
word seems to be forthcoming. "Daniel is physically safe, and we are working with doctors to return Daniel to a
productive life," his brother Dick Johnston told us. "The initial
conclusion seems to be holding out", referring to the report of an
infection and elevated
Daniel receives monthly monitoring of medication levels,
and his daily regiment of medications is maintained based on those
tests. An imbalance can occur by sudden change in diet or drinking
habits, and by liver or kidney failure. Daniel had a high
temperature shortly after admission last week, and a kidney infection
could have triggered a build up of medications. The
infection and imbalances are now corrected and normal.
The wild speculation and a reported stalking of the
celebrity by a fan at the hospital has prompted the family to be more
restrained in their reports to the public. As to a timetable
for Daniel's return home, no one seemed prepared to predict.