It’s been a year since the world lost Daniel Johnston. The singer-songwriter with a cult following passed away due to natural causes at the age of 58 in his home on the outskirts of Houston, Texas. While the artist didn’t have the kind of following that results in a massive amount of album sales, there’s really no denying Johnston’s impact on modern music. This is why many of today’s best artists have come together to pay tribute to Daniel Johnston one year later.
Honey, I Sure Miss You was organized by the legendary Electric Lady Studios and features musicians from a slew of different genres, all of them influenced by Johnston music. If you want to learn more about this momentous event and more about Daniel Johnston himself, read on for our recap of Johnston’s tribute show Honey, I Sure Miss You!
Who Was Daniel Johnston
Johnston started his career in music back in the 1980s. He garnered a local following by giving out copies of his tapes while working at a McDonald’s in Austin Texas. Because of this, Johnston turned into a cult-hero — managing to fill venues whenever he decided to play. Johnston wasn’t known for being complex with his music, as fans loved how earnest and straightforward his songs which made him a creative force in the New Sincerity music scene.
His influence even managed to reach the popular artists of his time, most notably Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. In fact, Cobain was even one of the main reasons for Johnston’s mainstream popularity after Cobain was photographed wearing a Daniel Johnston t-shirt at the MTV Video Music Awards. Johnston’s influence on modern music and pop culture is still felt to this day, as even fashion companies such as Supreme have incorporated Johnston’s art and music into their designs. This is why it isn’t at all surprising that artists threw their support behind the Daniel Johnston tribute, performing covers of Johnston’s best tracks to commemorate his life and contributions to music and popular culture.
The livestream performance had a pretty impressive line-up. Artists such as Phoebe Bridgers, Jeff Tweedy, Beck, Waxahatchee, Devendra Banhart, and The Lemon Twigs all picked out songs to cover. In addition to this, the Johnston family also premiered previously unreleased home videos that showed a side of Johnston that fans had not seen before.
Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy kicked off the show with a heart-wrenching cover of “Cold Hard World”, a song that just hits different considering the current state of disarray that the world is in. Tweedy changed very little about the song, keeping it simple with an acoustic guitar and his two sons acting as backup singers. Another notable performance was Devendra Banhart’s rendition of “Dream”. Banhart put his own twist to what was originally a minimalist song by making heavy use of a looping pedal. This gave the song more depth and a more hypnotic quality about it through the use of intricate harmonies and rhythms. One of the more heartfelt performances of the night can be attributed to Phoebe Bridgers who covered “Peek-A-Boo”. Bridgers has covered this song through the years, but this may just be the best version of it as this rendition has an intimate feel to it.
All in all, the artists that participated in the tribute did justice to Johnston as they paid their respects to an artist who bore his sole to audiences all over the world. The good, the bad, and everything in between Johnston kept very little from his fans. This kind of honesty is hard to come by these days and is one of the reasons why Johnston will be truly missed.
If you’re looking for more reviews of online shows, check out our piece on LiUNA! Bluesfest Windsor’s live stream concert series!