Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Daniel Johnston - Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances + Casper the Friendly Ghost

Yesterday I watched the documentary "The Devil and Daniel Johnston." Prior to then I was completely unfamiliar with the guy, but had frequently heard references to his name. It's interesting being introduced to an artist through a documentary. That format is optimum for Daniel Johnston as his music is so instantly unaccessible that from one listen you might be tempted to dismiss it forever. To get into a little background history, Daniel is severely bi-polar. Throughout his life he has been in an out of mental institutions, often thinking that many of the people around him were possessed by satan. At times he said the devil has taken over his body and he had no control over himself, which for a few cases led him to throw the ignition keys of a small passenger plane out of the window, enter the house of an old lady and frighten her to the extent that she jumped out of her top window, and hitting his best friend over the head with a lead pipe.

So to hear Daniel's music without this context can make it incredibly difficult. His songwriting is excellent, with extremely heartfelt lyrics and strong melodies but the presentation with his untrained (to say the least) vocals and primative guitar playing may put some people off. Because of this, there are countless covers of Daniel's material, though which his songwriting reaches the ears of a less selective group of the population. For example he's been covered by The Flaming Lips, Yo La Tengo, Sufjan Stevens, Bright Eyes, Tom Waits, Death Cab for Cutie, Calvin Johnston, Mike Watt, Beck, and Built to Spill to name a few. However with Daniel's originals there's such a naked sincerity to them it's hard not to listen and just simply feel for the guy. Now that I'm still a Daniel Johnston noob I've only heard one of his albums, Yip Jump Music: Summer 1983 but I'll post here some of my favorites from it.

Daniel Johnston - Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances

"Don't let the sun go down on your grievances
Respect love of the heart over lust of the flesh
Do yourself a favor: become your own savior
And don't let the sun go down on your grievances

And when you wake up in the morning
You'll have a brand new feeling
And you'll find yourself healing
So don't let the sun go down on your grievances

And yet if you find yourself in the dark
And you're left holding the bag
Then take care of it right away
And don't let the sun go down on your grievances again"

Daniel Johnston - Casper the Friendly Ghost

"He was smiling through his own personal hell
Dropped his last dime in a wishing well
But he was hoping to close and then he fell
Now he's Casper the Friendly Ghost

He was always polite to the people who'd tell him
That he was nothing but a lazy bum, but
Goodbye to them he had to go
Now he's Casper the Friendly Ghost

Nobody treated him nice while he was alive
You can't buy no respect like the librarian said, but
Everybody respects the dead, they
Love a friendly ghost

Daniel Johnston - Discovered Covered @ Amazon.com

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