Thursday, January 11, 2007

Daniel Johnston

Last night I watched The Devil and Daniel Johnston, a documentary tracing the career of this singer-songwriter, who's become something of a cult figure, namechecked by many prominent figures in the American indie/alternative scene (you can read about him here). I found it fascinating, but also unsettling. There is one very important fact about Johnston that colours any discussion of him - the fact that he has for many years suffered from Bi-polar disorder, and has had to be hospitalised periodically due to psychotic episodes.

As I watched people queue up to testify to his talent I found myself thinking of two other mentally ill musicians who have been brought to public attention: Wild Man Fischer, who was championed by Frank Zappa, among others, and the Australian pianist David Helfgott, whose story was dramatised/romanticised in the film Shine.

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