Why I’m Glad I Got To See The Rock, Daniel Johnston

Daniel Johnston left his mark on music history. His songs, like, “I’ll Drink to That,” “My City of Ruins,” and “Pump Up The Volume,” helped fuel the anti-war protests in Europe in the late 1960s, and “Rockin’ in the Free World” sold many million copies even as “I’m the Greatest” lost to the Beatles. So when I was on tour for “Hang on Sloopy,” I wanted to see him as a human being and for him to witness and own.

But his death in a plane crash in 1976 seemed tragic, especially because he was already on his way to achieving the status of rock star. So it really was bittersweet to finally see Johnston, a hero, here on Earth. His widow, Dina, and sons, Mike and Dan, came to this performance to tell him how much we miss him.

For a man in the rock era, he was quite a simple man. He was born in the year of Lincoln’s birth to parents whose family name comes from the English pronunciation of her first name. Johnston grew up in a house with a mother and a father in a country town not far from London. After school, Johnston went to work as a carpenter making cabinets, and eventually got a job in a music store.

As an adult, he moved to Los Angeles and started writing music. He went on to form the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1976. In 1980, he moved to Portland, Oregon, where he recorded his first five albums (including the most successful, 1981’s “Blood Sugar Sex Magik”) and wrote songs for the bands The Zombies, The Jesus Lizard, and The Cult.

His career took off when he joined the Beatles. After that, he went on to write for, and tour with, other rock/pop groups, including The Who, The Who’s daughter, The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, The Cure, New Order, and, of course, The Beatles. He also wrote music that was covered by the likes of Rolf Harris, and is credited for helping write or help compile the theme songs for “The Love Boat,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Family Ties,” “The Muppet Show,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” The Muppet Show Video, “Spin City,” and ABC’s “The Good Wife.” He also co-wrote a song called “Ladies and Gentlemen” for the Broadway musical, “One Way Station.”

When he was on tour, Johnston would play the original version of “Hey Jude,” with the Beatles’ overdubs. He sang vocals on the cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and produced the single and album of the same name. His voice has been used on hundreds of songs and he had hundreds of records. He wrote and sang “I’ll Rock You Like a Hurricane,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “I’m a Rock” and “Revolution 909.” The song “Revolution 909” was used once again by David Bowie.

At the time he died, he was still only 47 years old. Johnston was also a big fan of the Eagles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, and The Eagles were his favorite band of all-time. His “Rockin’ in the Free World” is an anthem of that era. The Eagles played at the end of “Hanging On Sloopy” where Johnston performed the original “Hey Jude” with his band.

“When I heard ‘Hey Jude,’ to me, that was the one song,” Johnston told Rolling Stone. “It was the one single that really stuck in my head. The original, that was so close to how it sounded when it was first done. I thought it was absolutely perfect and the way they went about it, that’s absolutely just perfect.”