Dave's Rating:


… you'll become a fan …

Who's in It: Daniel Johnston, Kathy McCarty, Gibby Haynes, Steve Shelly

The Basics: A great documentary about the best singer-songwriter you may have never heard of. Johnston is mentally ill, lives with his elderly parents and fills his heartbreaking unrequited love songs with visions of ghosts, monsters and demons.

What's the Deal? When what you do is so far off the spectrum of what's usually expected that only a cult audience can deal with it, that's called "outsider art." But if you listen to Johnston's music — and there's a lot of it in this sad, lovingly made movie — you'll hear his Beatles influences plainly. If you can get past his awful guitar playing and strangled singing voice, you'll become a fan, too.

Not for Dentistry-Phobes: Johnston's manic depression was aggravated in the mid-1980s when he was given LSD by an unknown person at a Butthole Surfers show in Austin, Texas. Surfers lead guy Gibby Haynes discusses this and denies being the one who doses Johnston … while getting his teeth drilled in a dentist's office.

Rock Star Friends and Foes: Kurt Cobain helped Johnston's career by being constantly photographed in one of his T-shirts. Sonic Youth spent a day hunting for a lost Johnston all over New York City. Johnston also believed Metallica wanted to kill him.

Mental Illness Isn't Funny, But: The crazy hymn Johnston wrote about his love of Mountain Dew soda will crack you up anyway. The Pepsi Co. rejected it. Meanwhile, one of his best songs, "Speeding Motorcycle," was used a few years back in a Target commercial.

A True Personal Moment I Had With Daniel Johnston: I bought one of his homemade cassettes from him for $5 in 1986 outside a Sonic Youth show in Austin. (Yes, I'm that old.)


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