RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're now going to honor an influential, beloved and always surprising musician Daniel Johnston. He died at the age 58 at his home near Houston. Here's NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas.
ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: Daniel Johnston was an unlikely musical hero.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMERICAN DREAM")
DANIEL JOHNSTON: (Singing) I'm the ghost that came before I came to haunting at your door. I just can't make it without your love.
TSIOULCAS: Early on, Daniel Johnston handed out homemade cassettes recorded on a boombox at the McDonald's where he worked, and word quickly spread. By the late 1980s, he was recording with members of Sonic Youth. Johnston was a musician's musician whose open, simple lyrics won him many fans. He often sang about his pursuit of love and sense of deep isolation in a way that cracked open pure emotion. His songs were covered by the likes of Tom Waits, Beck, Wilco and, here, Yo La Tengo, who brought his music to a wider audience.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SPEEDING MOTORCYCLE")
YO LA TENGO: (Singing) Speeding motorcycle, don't you drive recklessly.
TSIOULCAS: And Johnston was a notable visual artist, too. He was chosen for the Whitney Biennial in New York in 2006. A wall mural of his depicting a friendly frog-like creature under the words - hi, how are you? - has become an attraction in Austin, Texas.
Daniel Johnston was found dead at his home Wednesday morning. He had been physically unwell in recent years. As his fans knew, he struggled with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia for most of his life. In 2005, Johnston was the subject of a documentary called "The Devil And Daniel Johnston" that traced his art-making and his significant struggles. The film won the documentary directing award at Sundance that year.
(SOUNDBITE OF DOCUMENTARY, "THE DEVIL AND DANIEL JOHNSTON")
JOHNSTON: Hi. My name is Daniel Johnston. And this is the name of my tape, and it's "Hi How Are You." And I - I was having a nervous breakdown when I recorded it.
TSIOULCAS: Despite his challenges, Johnston sang true love will find you in the end.
Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRUE LOVE WILL FIND YOU IN THE END")
JOHNSTON: (Singing) True love will find you in the end.
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