In a career that was filled with stops and starts, Mr. Johnston became something of a man-child celebrity of the artistic underground, earning the admiration of rock stars like Kurt Cobain and Tom Waits as well as comparisons to William Blake.
As news of his death spread, Mr. Johnston was mourned online by creators across mediums and generations, among them Beck, the director Judd Apatow and John Darnielle of the literary-minded indie band the Mountain Goats.
At a young age, he moved with his family to West Virginia, but by the early 1980s he had relocated to the underground rock center of Austin, Tex., where he handed out homemade cassettes to friends and customers while working at a McDonald’s.
He quickly gained the notice of fellow musicians and the music press with songs, like “Speeding Motorcycle” and “Don’t Play Cards With Satan,” that had a poignant clarity yet showed glimpses of a fractured mind.
But by comparison, the rock guide Trouser Press noted, Mr. Fair “seems about as offbeat as an insurance salesman,” as Mr. Johnston muttered “Poor you, no one understands you” in a warped, ghostlike voice.
On a 2004 compilation album, “The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered,” his songs were performed by Mr. Waits, TV on the Radio and Death Cab for Cutie.
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