Legendary outsider musician Daniel Johnston has died at 58 years old, according to The Austin Chronicle. The singer, who launched his career in Austin, Texas in the ’80s, reportedly died of a heart attack. The news was confirmed by Johnston’s former manager, Jeff Tartakov.
Johnston dealt with a variety of health issues for much of his life. In 2017, The New York Times noted that Johnston battled manic depression and schizophrenia for most of his adult life, and that towards the end of his life, he faced diabetes, a kidney infection, and hydrocephalus.
Johnston first achieved fame through self-released recordings he handed out to people in Austin. He gained increased notoriety after Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was photographed wearing a t-shirt featuring the cover art of Johnston’s 1983 album Hi, How Are You, which was Johnston’s defining album. He went on to release 18 studio albums. His first, Songs Of Pain, was released in 1981, and his latest, Beam Me Up!, came out in 2010.
In 2017, Johnston announced his final concert tour, a five-date stretch of shows between September and November of that year. At each show, he was accompanied by a special guest: Jeff Tweedy & Friends joined him in Chicago, Built To Spill joined in Portland and Vancouver, the Preservation All-Stars joined in New Orleans, and the Districts and Modern Baseball joined in Philadelphia. The guest bands created the setlists, and each performance was preceded by screenings of the 2005 documentary The Devil And Daniel Johnston.
Even after announcing his final tour, Johnston seemed excited to continue making music. In 2018, he told The Austin Chronicle, “”I’ve been working on a new album with [Austin musician] Brian Beattie for years, and I hope it comes out real soon.” In a New York Times in an interview published in September 2017, Johnston also said, “Hopefully, I could have a big hit someday, a real hit. […] I can’t stop writing. If I did stop, there could be nothing. Maybe everything would stop. So I won’t stop. I’ve got to keep it going.”