Daniel Johnston – “Careless Soul”
Satan, not Christ, was always Daniel Johnston’s true obsession. Songs like “Devil Town”, “Don’t Play Cards with Satan”, and “Held the Hand” showcase the troubled singer’s clear mistrust for red devils, a fixation likely brought on by his aggressive religious upbringing. But in 1988, a show at New York City’s Pier Platters found a warbling Johnston rattling off prophetic perplexities (“Number 7 is Jesus Christ”) before launching into an a capella version of “Prepare to Meet Thy God”—credited on 1990 as “Careless Soul”. Johnston’s cracking voice overwhelms with unbridled emotion as he warns listeners to repent, as death could come at any moment. His heartrending reaction to the hymn is understandable, especially when considering the singer was on the verge of a life-threatening mental breakdown that would have him institutionalized. “Careless Soul” is not an easy listen—you can almost hear the audience’s eyes gluing themselves to the floor—but it’s that rare, uncomfortable performance that slowly, achingly transforms music into a cry for help.