But here's the irony: Few musicians have such an impossible-to-duplicate style. From the homemade, voice-and-piano cassettes he used to pass out on the streets of Austin, Texas, to the relatively slicker albums of recent years, Johnston has created a world unlike any in pop -- one that's peopled with characters like Casper the Friendly Ghost, Captain America, and an ex-girlfriend employed at a funeral home.
More important, music has been the primary battleground of Johnston's war with manic depression; it's a struggle chronicled in the 2005 documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston. But that battle's visual manifestation has made Johnston a celebrated figure in the art world as well. His Magic Marker portraits -- filled with headless torsos, eyeballs, and crosses -- have become a hot commodity, earning him a spot at the prestigious Whitney Biennial exhibition.
During our brief interview, which he politely terminates after just a couple of minutes, Johnston repeatedly states, "Everything's fine. Everything's just fine." When you consider Johnston's mental and physical health issues (he nearly died from a kidney infection a couple of years ago), fine seems like a great place to be.