Published Sep 27, 2017This summer, it was announced that Daniel Johnston would be embarking on his final tour, with the members of Wilco, Built to Spill and Fugazi all serving as his backing bands. However, the fact that this was to be his last-ever tour was apparently news to Johnston himself. After all, the tour wasn't even his idea.
The New York Times has just published a lengthy interview piece with the storied songwriter, and when Johnston was asked if this was to really be his final tour, he seemed surprised by the question, replying, "Why would it be?"
The piece goes on to explain that the idea for this "final tour" actually stemmed from Johnston's older brother, Dick, who was told by their recently deceased father and Daniel's former manager Bill to take the initiative.
"If you ask him, he'll say: 'Ehh. I'm just going to stay home,'" Dick told the Times of his brother. "That's kind of what happened this time."
Speaking of this perhaps not being Johnston's final tour after all, Dick said, "This could be, but it doesn't have to."
In addition to battling manic depression and schizophrenia most of his adult life, 56-year-old Daniel Johnston has apparently been in ill physical health in recent years, suffering from diabetes, a kidney infection and hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid on his brain caused him to frequently lose his balance.
"I'm concerned about his physical stamina because he's been doing nothing for the longest time," said Dick.
The Times also explained that Daniel Johnston's mental health has also worsened.
"We had to call the police twice in the last three months and forcibly take him into a clinic to adjust his medications," Dick, who is now Daniel's current manager, said, adding, "He's doing pretty good now."
Making matters worse, their father Bill just recently passed away at age 94. As the 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston highlighted, the musician was incredibly close with his father, who lived next door to him in a rural farming community outside of Houston.
Speaking on his father's recent passing, Johnston simply said, "We'll be all right."
The New York Times goes on to explain that it's unclear if any of the bands involved with the tour know about Johnston's current state. The publication also explains that the tour's backing bands — which include Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Built to Spill, the Preservation All-Stars and Modern Baseball, in addition to members of Fugazi, Beirut, Gang Gang Dance, Cibo Matto, Silversun Pickups and more — were chosen by the tour's booking agent, not Johnston himself. In fact, Johnston hardly knows any of the musicians involved personally and is unfamiliar with their music.
Apparently, the plan will be for Dick to prepare a binder of lyrics for his brother based on each set list, but Daniel Johnston will likely have no contact with the bands before the actual show.
"That's the plan, which I'm not psyched about," said Built to Spill's Doug Martsch. "We like to rehearse like crazy. We don't believe there's any magic in music. It takes hard work and practise. It doesn't look like we're going to get much of that, so we're going to have to hope for the magic."
All this being said, Dick stated his brother "will rise to the occasion." On another positive note, Johnston has still been actively recording, with his most recent session resulting in four albums' worth of material.
"I can't stop writing," Daniel Johnston said. "If I did stop, there could be nothing. Maybe everything would stop. So I won't stop. I've got to keep it going."
You can get more info on the tour over here. His only Canadian date is set for Vancouver on November 10.