Tanner Babcock

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Daniel Johnston

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Year Title Rating
1980 Songs of Pain 6/10
1982 The What of Whom 6/10
1982 Don't Be Scared 7.5/10
1983 More Songs of Pain 6.5/10
1983 Hi, How Are You: The Unfinished Album 7.5/10
1983 Yip/Jump Music 6.5/10
1985 Continued Story 7/10
1985 >>Respect .../...
1985 >>Retired Boxer .../...
1988 Merry Christmas 5/10
1989 Jad Fair & Daniel Johnston - It's Spooky .../...
1990 1990 7/10
1991 >>Artistic Vice .../...
1994 Fun 5.5/10
1998 >>Frankenstein Love .../...
2001 >>Rejected Unknown .../...
2010 >>Beam Me Up! .../...

Daniel Johnston is perhaps the single most honest pop music composer ever. His songs are pure feeling, innocent, unadulterated nuance of emotion, and they come from the very bottom of a genuine heart. The fact that 0 of his musical output is fabricated, changed on a record executive's order, filtered through contracts, dilluted with half-hearted and half-baked nonsense, or even professionally recorded, even produced, makes him the most unique and innovative pop singer to ever live. Here's another thought for you: for being a singer-songwriter genius, exactly none of his music is about sex. Nothing about is coercive, persuasive, or seductive. It is completely the opposite: clear-headed, and abundantly inspired, and innocent. He is the one true unsung hero and martyr, a completely original talent that the music industry looked down its nose at for decades. It is infuriating to me, as a fan and adaptable music listener, that Daniel Johnston's work isn't being showered in newfound appreciation, instead it is marginalized into "outsider music" and fading into the obscurity of 80s rock music.

Possibly because of Johnston's lifelong mental illness, his work is enormously inspired. I often wonder if the emotional excesses and impulses the mentally ill often are susceptible to, have influenced Johnston's songwriting style.

His most elegant and flowery, but not sincere work is 1982's Don't Be Scared. It is probably the most honest and genuine albums ever recorded. This album has three remarkable, even experimental ideas: Johnston recorded his mother yelling at him and calling him a disgrace and a lazy bum, for the track "And You Love It", he let a group of kids play his instruments for "Something More", and he improvised a short song the way Captain Beefheart would, one line at a time, for "Stars on Parade". But the rehearsed songs on here are all dramatically eloquent and consistent.