Somehow his death did not appear on my radar back in 2013. These however: Junior Murvin, Lou Reed, JJ Cale, Bobby Bland, Ray Manzarek, Vincent Montana, Jr., Kevin Ayers, Donald Byrd and Cecil Womack, did.
Johnston’s cult status was propelled when Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain wore a T-shirt at the 1992 MTV music awards that featured artwork from Johnston’s 1983 album Hi, How Are You, a T-shirt that music journalist Everett True had given him. Cobain listed Yip/Jump Music as one of his favorite albums in his journal in 1993.
Much of Daniel Johnston’s music has focused on the subject of unrequited love, revolving around his own experiences with Laurie Johnson, an early obsession. Notably is “Urge” (above) on 1981’s Songs of Pain.
When I discovered Parliament-Funkadelic in the 1990s, part of the attraction was the visual style and the grand narrative holding the whole project together. This style was just as much due to George Clinton as to Pedro Bell.
A seminal text in his poetic oeuvre is from the sleeve notes of Standing on the Verge of Getting It On (1974):
“AS IT IS WRTTEN HENCEFORTH… On the Eighth Day, the Cosmic Strumpet of Mother Nature was spawned to envelope this Third Planet in FUNKADELICAL VIBRATIONS. And she birthed Apostles Ra, Hendrix, Stone, and CLINTON to preserve all funkiness of man unto eternity… But! Fraudulent forces of obnoxious JIVATION grew…only seedling GEORGE remained! As it came to be, he did indeed begat FUNKADELIC to restore Order Within the Universe. And nourished from the pamgrierian mammaristic melonpaps of Mother Nature, the followers of FUNKADELIA multiplied incessantly!”
Dr. John was an American singer-songwriter best-known for his single “Right Place, Wrong Time” (1973).
There are two songs from his debut album Gris-Gris (1968) on YouTube, “Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya” and “I Walk on Guilded Splinters”, both have very nice percussion breaks.
Of note is the likeness of “Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya” to the work of Tom Waits (think Swordfishtrombones, 1983), esp. the aforementioned percussion breaks.
Dr. John is one of these figures one could study for a week, there are so many connections. Below is him reading “Berenice” by Edgar Allan Poe.
Trivia: the beginning of “Right Place, Wrong Time” sounds like the beginning of “Spirit in the Sky” (1969) and the whole of “Right Place, Wrong Time” is very much reminiscent of a seventies groovy soul song with a chorus of “your love, your love” with something added like “is unforgettable” or “is extraordinary”, the title of which escapes me.