Friday, December 16, 2005

Get to Know Your Heros

In case anyone missed the news posted by "a long-handled fork that has two or three long somewhat curved prongs and is used especially in pitching hay"-Media, Daniel Johnston was admitted to a hospital in late November and remains in critical care.

Anyone who saw "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" on the festival circuit this year knows not only how amazing Daniel and his body of work are but also how great a music documentary can be. The film was even one of fifteen documentaries selected from a list of 82 to be considered for Oscar nomination. It will receive a limited theatrical release in March of next year...around the same time as another documentary that I can't wait to see: "WHO IS HARRY NILSSON (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?)". That doc will feature interviews with Yoko Ono, Randy Newman, Brian Wilson, Micky Dolenz and several others. The film is directed by John Scheinfeld. His LSL Prods banner was responsible for "Beautiful Dreamer", another music doc, about Brian Wilson and his Smile album (which is sitting on my DVR box).

Nilsson is most likely recalled by non-fans for his popular cover of Badfinger's "Without You" as well as his 1969 hit "Everybody's Talkin'," the theme song for the film "Midnight Cowboy". He was also responsible for the head-burying novelty "Coconut" and wrote Three Dog Night's "One". Nilsson Schmilsson, the remastered Harry Nilsson album was a treasure find for me last year. The unabashed poppiness of that album hasn't aged a lick well over thirty years after it original release. It inspired me to go out and pick up the equally enjoyable Son of Schmilsson album as well as Harry & Nilsson Sings Newman. Nilsson was nicknamed 'the American Beatle' and was actually a hard-partying friend of John Lennon. Check him out-he remains one of the most underappreciated singer-songwriters in American music.

Back to Daniel for a moment, In 2004, Gammon Records released a tribute album "Discovered Covered - the Late Great Daniel Johnston", which had nineteen of Johnston's songs packaged with eighteen prominent artists covering the same songs on a second disc, including Tom Waits, Death Cab, Bright Eyes and The Eels. It was a brilliant idea and perfectly excuted.

Here are the requisite samples:

Daniel Johnston: True Love Will Find You in the End
Beck: True Love Will Find You in the End
Harry Nilsson: Let the Good Times Roll

PS: A totally random note: several years ago I saw on the MTV footage of Titanic (which I still haven't actually seen) set to Fountains of Wayne's "Sink to the Bottom". It was absolute genius. If that same person is still kicking around they'd be smart to set Tom Waits cover of Daniel's Johnston's "King Kong" to Peter Jackson's new film in some capacity.


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