Music Artists Who, Like Roky Erickson, Have Struggled With Mental Illness
Chicago native Wesley Willis -- diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia, which he termed "hell rides" - -rose from homelessness to alt-rock cult hero starting in the early '90s, thanks to his Casio-abetted song-rants about Alanis Morissette, McDonald's, Osama Bin Laden, and hundreds more topics. He issued several dozen recordings, and was an equally prolific visual artist as well, known for his idiosyncratic drawings of Chicago street scenes. Willis died from leukemia in 2003 at age 40.
Like Erickson, indie-folk singer-guitarist (and cartoonist) Daniel Johnston was also the subject of a compelling documentary film -- 2006's The Devil and Daniel Johnston -- which detailed his battle with severe bipolar disorder (including an episode where he became hypomanic and forced his father to crash-land the small plane the pair were flying in; both walked away from the crash unharmed) and a life spent in and out of psychiatric hospitals. And, like Erickson, Johnston -- who now lives under the care of his elderly parents -- has managed to find enough stability these days to tour regularly behind his brilliantly skewed songbook.