Since Daniel Johnston's death less than three weeks ago, musicians who were moved by the former Austinite's music have been testifying to the power of his songs. Glen Hansard performed Johnston's "Life in Vain" when he played at Stubb's two weeks ago. Nick Cave, who'll be in Austin this weekend, has been playing "Devil Town" at other recent tour stops. And now it's Eddie Vedder, who covered "Walking the Cow" at a festival in Southern California on Saturday night.
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Headlining day two of the three-day Ohana Festival at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point, the Pearl Jam singer took time early on to talk for a few minutes about Johnston's music before playing the song that first appeared on Johnston's 1983 cassette "Hi, How Are You?" Briefly telling the crowd about how Johnston began distributing tapes of his songs in Austin in the 1980s, Vedder then recalled spending several hours with Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell one night, listening Johnston's music nonstop.
“We listened for two hours straight, it turned in to four hours, and then into six hours, until it was six in the morning, laughing and crying and then smiling so hard that tears were squeezed out of our eyes," Vedder marveled. "And then looking at each other and going, I’ll never forget, we said, ‘He is better than both of us.’”
AUSTIN360 PODCAST: Why Austin loves Daniel Johnston
A festgoer captured the entire introduction and Vedder's performance of "Walking the Cow" on video:
More musicians will play Johnston's songs on Oct. 10 at the Mohawk. Live music promoter Margin Walker and the Johnston-associated nonprofit Hi, How Are You Project present "A Celebration of the Late Great Daniel Johnston" (8 p.m., $15) on the night before the second weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival begins. The show will feature primarily local musicians; confirmed so far are Kathy McCarty, Jad Fair, Kramer, Moving Panoramas and Walker Lukens, with others expected to be added soon.
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