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Celebrity Music: Musician Daniel Johnston, whose fans included Kurt Cobain and The Flaming Lips, dies at 58

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Celebrity Music: Musician Daniel Johnston, whose fans included Kurt Cobain and The Flaming Lips, dies at 58

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Acclaimed musician Daniel Johnston inspired fans and other musicians.
USA TODAY

Singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston, whose songs were covered by such artists as Tom Waits, Beck, The Flaming Lips and Death Cab for Cutie, died Wednesday at the age of 58.

The death of the acclaimed musician, who was born in California and raised in West Virginia but spent much of his adult life in Austin, Texas, was confirmed on Johnston’s Facebook page. Memorial plans will be announced.

Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, who praised Johnston’s songwriting skills in interviews, further raised the singer-songwriter’s profile in the early 1990s when he wore a T-shirt depicting the cover of Johnston’s album “Hi, How Are You.” 

Johnston, who also was a visual artist, painted the iconic “Hi, How Are You” frog mural that is an Austin landmark.

The Austin Chronicle called the longtime resident a “songwriting genius” in a headline, citing his many accomplishments, including 17 albums of original music, highlighted by three home-recorded tapes from 1983: “More Songs of Pain,”http://www.usatoday.com/”Yip/Jump Music” and “Hi, How Are You.” 

His songs include “Life in Vain,”http://www.usatoday.com/”‘True Love Will Find You in the End” and “Walking the Cow.”

Johnston also was the subject of a 2005 documentary, “The Devil and Daniel Johnston,” which chronicles the musician’s skills and his struggle with bipolar disorder.

The Facebook post included a statement from Johnston’s family, stating that the artist died Wednesday from natural causes at his home outside Houston. (Some news accounts say he died Tuesday night and that his body was found Wednesday.)

The statement noted that Johnston maintained an optimistic outlook while dealing with mental illness:

“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. He inspired countless fans, artists, and songwriters with his message that no matter how dark the day that ‘the sun shines down on me’ and ‘true love will find you in the end.”http://www.usatoday.com/”

Older brother Dick Johnston spoke of his brother’s health challenges and of working and traveling together over the years: “I always wanted Danny to feel like his own person, and in control of his own life. … We gratefully were able to travel the entire globe for over a decade to get out before the fans. He was always, everywhere, warmly received and he at least knew he was well loved. Health issues have plagued us for years, but I’m glad for the time we had.”

Johnston’s manager, Tom Gimbel, expressed sadness and a strong personal connection, calling the musician “one of the greatest songwriting geniuses of our time. In our time together Daniel was more than an artist; he was a friend, he was family.”

Johnston’s life inspired creation of the Hi, How Are You Project, which encourages open conversation about mental health.

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