The Internet has exploded over a singing performance by a guy named Danyl Johnson, whose audition on the British television show "X-Factor" the notoriously cantankerous Simon Cowell called the best first audition he had ever seen. Johnson, a 27-year-old school teacher, blazed through the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends" (though his version sounded more like the one by Joe Cocker) and received a glowing ovation both from the studio audience and the judges seated at the desk. But though Johnson appears to be a young Brit, is there any proof that he's not actually Daniel Johnston, the bipolar singer-songwriter who recorded legendarily low-fi wonders like Yip/Jump Music and Hi, How Are You? and who was Kurt Cobain's favorite songwriter?
There's more there than you might think. First of all, both have an affection for the Beatles. Johnson covered a signature Fab Four tune from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, while Johnston often cited John, Paul, George and Ringo as his favorite band, and his song "The Beatles" contains the lyric "Four lads who shook the world/ God bless them for what they done." Both Johnson and Johnston also scored early exposure on television (Johnson on "X-Factor," Johnston on a 1985 MTV documentary about the Austin music scene) and both have (so far) incited rapture among audiences.
Of course, Johnson's voice is far cleaner than Johnston's whine, and obviously they look nothing alike. But the warmth and prettiness of Johnson's delivery on "With a Little Help From My Friends" is not unlike the sort of haunting tone Johnston grabs on "Some Things Last a Long Time."