The 10 Best Daniel Johnston Songs

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Daniel Johnston's life story is the stuff movies are made of. There have, in fact, been movies made about Daniel Johnston (most notably the critically acclaimed The Devil and Daniel Johnston), and if you ever want to get a look into the troubled life that produced this unique artist, you can watch those movies. This isn't about that, it's about the music.

When you read about Daniel Johnston, you'll often read that you can't understand his music unless you understand him as a person. Never believe this kind of talk. It is never true. Backstories and context are great to aid in understanding and generate interest, but good music always finds a way to tell its own story. Daniel's certainly does.

There's an unshakable honesty in his voice, and the simplicity of many of his best songs resonates deeply, speaking to some basic piece of our human nature that sometimes gets overcomplicated in the arts. At times he comes across as childlike, at others he strikes the perfect combination of words and sounds that rival greats like The Beatles and Neil Young.

Knowing Daniel Johnston's story is certainly part of what makes him so interesting to so many people, but that's because people are dying for something real. No matter how troubled, imperfect, and unpolished, there is an incontestable value to anything that is real, authentic, and human. Daniel Johnston is that, and you can feel that in his music.

Click to start the list

  • commentswrittenundertheinfluence

    Thank you for reminding me how much I love this dude.

  • DMajor

    As usual fantastic article. Love this site. Appreciate the love for Daniel. I used to get really high in college and one time I threw Devil and Daniel Johnston on on a whim, and proceeded to watch it three more times that day. I was completely enthralled by his lyrics and his story. Crazy how bands like Youth Lagoon can sound just like this (especially Some Things Last A Long Time) and get crazy recognition. Proves how ahead of his time this man was.

  • DMajor

    also not to be that guy but Im a big fan of “I Live My Broken Dream” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICLXH8wdXhk

  • http://www.pigeonsandplanes.com Confusion

    True.

  • Jobe

    While there’s quite a few good songs on this list, the author seems to be really focusing on pre-2000. There’s some really great stuff post the basement tape era. Checkout “Why Me? Live in Berlin” for an example of what this man can do with a guitar and piano.

  • http://megansaltzman.blogspot.com Megan

    Gorgeous, original, as humanly transparent as human gets.

  • http://www.bandcamp.com/thehandsautomaton Josh

    Great list! Its hard to narrow down to 10. This would be my list of my personal favorites. And it leaves out so many.

    10. Catie
    9. I Remember Painfully
    8. I Had Lost My Mind
    7. Chord Organ Blues
    6. Some Things Last a Long Time
    5. Grievances
    4. True Love Will Find You In The End
    3. Story of An Artist
    2. Walking the Cow
    1. Worries Shoes

  • Claus

    Brilliant ! … A couple of my favorite songs are missing so I decided to make my own list !!

    1. Put my love out of the door
    2. Held the Hand
    3. The sun shines down on me
    4. Pot head
    5. Try to love
    6. Favorite darling girl
    7. Hey Joe
    8. Loner
    9. Walking the cow
    10. Some things last a long time

  • Marcos

    Laurie ♥

  • Michael Bland

    In my opinion Daniel Johntson is the best singer/songwriter of all time .

  • Facundo

    What about ‘mind contorted’? :(

  • djfan

    Where is story of a artist!? that should be number one

  • Fanofactuallyrics

    really you guys think this is good???? wow smh…….