Dozens of people have gathered at a mural in Austin, Texas to pay tribute to the late Daniel Johnston.
That’s according to Will LeHardy, a waiter and expediter at Thai, How Are You. The restaurant, which houses Johnson’s ‘Hi, How Are You’ album art mural on one of its exterior walls, takes its playful name from the artist’s 1983 record.
“At the moment there’s probably six or seven people out there,” LeHardy told NME today (September 12). “They’ve been gathering all morning. And they were gathering yesterday to pay tribute too,” he said.
News broke yesterday (September 11) that Johnston, 58 – the cult lo-fi pioneer who influenced the likes of Kurt Cobain and Tom Waits – had died after suffering a heart attack on Tuesday (September 10).
“I was very surprised to hear about his death. The mural is not only an iconic part of our restaurant but it’s an iconic landmark as it is,” LeHardy added.
“We’re still cranking out pad thais but the mural itself in terms of what Daniel Johnston represents in the campus community and in the Austin community – it’s really sad that’s he’s passed.”
- READ MORE: Daniel Johnston’s 10 best songs – wonderful tales of mortality, purity and… cartoon characters
The artwork was already in place when Thai, How Are You owner David Roberts opened the eatery in 2018. In 1993, Johnston painted the work after he was asked by Sound Exchange record store employees. The store occupied the same building as Thai, How Are You until it closed in 2003.
Roberts said it’s “not unreasonable” to see at least 50 different people stopping to take photos of the mural every day.
“It’s quite amazing. I haven’t actually been down there myself in the last few days but I wouldn’t be surprised if the photo traffic was up,” he said.
Some images on social media reveal that people have paid tribute to Johnston by laying flowers at the foot of the mural. At present it’s not known if a vigil has or will be held there.
Johnston performed in front of the mural to mark his 50th birthday in 2011. Watch footage below.
NME’s James and remarked about the mural in his closing paragraph. wrote about “the singular genius of Daniel Johnston” in his obituary
“In Austin, ‘Jeremiah the Innocent’ lives on where Daniel does not. The mural of the big frog that the late Austin record store Sound Exchange commissioned Daniel to paint on their wall remains. It’s something of an Austin institution, almost lost in 2004 when a Mexican grill franchise called Baja Fresh took ownership of the building and intended to knock said wall down. The community revolted and the wall remained. A Thai restaurant lives there now. Brilliantly, it’s called ‘Thai, How Are You?’ Elsewhere in town, Austin remains weird. But sad. They – all of us, wherever we are – lost a special one this week,” he wrote.