As I became more interested in learning about this man’s music career from when he made those early home-basement recordings to when one of those tapes ending up being distributed through an indie record company a few years later to where he is today, I noticed something with every newly discovered song I heard by him on YouTube. In the comment section, everyone was talking about how they became fans of his music after watching the 2005 documentary “The Devil And Daniel Johnston”. I saw the trailer for it on YouTube and finally saw what this guy was like (and how he appeared) in his early 20s, (when these early tapes were recorded). Songs such as “I Lost My Mind” and “The Story of An Artist” (both from the “Don’t Be Scared” album) played in the trailer as well, which made sense given how his mental health issues are something that most of his fans tend to gravitate the most towards (at least that’s how I feel).
After finally being able to discover a non-taken-down and high quality streaming of the movie on one of the Putlocker sites (These music documentaries are so hard to find online compared to everything else. It was the same way when I was looking to watch the G-Funk documentary which came out a couple years ago), I began watching the film.
If I took anything away from it, it was that I not only identify with him, but I felt incredibly sorry for him. There was a moment during the late ’80s when he was beginning his downward spiral and would end up for the first time (and definitely not the last) in a mental hospital. When he came out, everything that he could see, hear, feel and think was about how the whole world is going to hell and the devil is taking control of pretty much everyone around him. Do I identify with THAT? Hell no (pun intended). But having said that, I know what it’s like to be isolated for so long that you begin seeing things from a different perspective than everybody else. I am on the autistic spectrum and so by default I see things differently since birth, but through the early-mid 2010’s (still technically this decade but no longer applies) everything in my mind was PTSD triggered, but without my knowledge. My recent sessions with my therapist (which continue to go very very well) have made me realize how much my early childhood, even before those prison-like schools during my junior high years (ironically that was the same period of Dan’s life when his mental illness began showing) has had an enormous effect on how I perceive things even MORE in recent years. After the break-up with my long-time girlfriend in 2016, the year and a half that followed was what I consider the 2nd darkest period of my life (the 1st is the said-junior-high era) because my numb depression took its toll, but ALSO, I saw everything around me as a conspiracy and the reason why I am in the position I’m in with my life. I believed in the “Illuminati” and “free masons” taking over the music industry and corrupting the minds of every friend I used to have and why they changed and became more plastic/superficial and less tolerant of my being “different”. I saw the whole fucking world that way and associated the world as becoming more like that as each year passes. And having Trump now as president (and people voting for him of course) didn’t help at all.
Getting back to Dan, after he left the mental institution, he would spend an entire year adjusting to something completely new and less effective than the advancement of it today. Medication. He was finally diagnosed with bipolar and schizophrenia and the pills numbed him beyond belief to where he spent all of 1988 (the year I was born) in bed pretty much. But the biggest problem it caused, was that it became much harder to write and perform songs anymore, so his musical output started to decline around this period.
It was tough to watch the film honestly. And that is just one part of it (his story gets darker as it goes on believe it or not). But just like seeing Tupac: Resurrection as a teen, I then wanted to check out every damn album he had up til now and be able to relate each one to the period of not just his life, but his mental well-being…(to be con’d)