Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart
January 15, 1941- December 17, 2010
Don Van Vliet, better known by his fans as Captain Beefheart, died today from complications of multiple sclerosis. He was 69 years old. His passing was officially announced by the Michael Werner Gallery, a New York based art gallery who accepted Vliet's artwork. Vliet was a man musically ahead of his time. In 1965, he formed the Magic Band. Vliet was also a childhood friend of Frank Zappa. Zappa and Vliet would listen to blues records. Vliet was heavily influenced by Howlin' Wolf, which influenced Vliet's singing. His debut album Safe As Milk, released in 1967, is probably one of the best debut albums ever made. The album had the elements of psychedelic music, garage rock, blues, and experimental music. However the highest point of Vliet's life was probably the release of his third album in 1969, Trout Mask Replica. The album was produced by Zappa, which allowed Vliet and his band artistic freedom. Songs like "Ella Guru" and "Moonlight on Vermont" are avant garde gold. There are also a number of stories that surround the making of the album. The band isolated themselves in a house for several months rehearsing the album and eventually recording it in four hours. That album was followed up by Lick My Decals Off, Baby in 1970.
Vliet returned to his blues roots on albums like The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot. Vliet's next two albums weren't that great critically and financially (Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams). Those albums were a bit too commercial and were a far cry from the experimental material. That would change in 1978 when Vliet hired a new, younger Magic Band and made three albums. The last of them, Ice Cream For Crow, released in 1982- was Vliet's swan song. He retired from the music business and remained out of the spotlight. He spent the rest of his life painting, which Vliet had loved to do since he was a child. In his last year, Vliet was wheelchair bound. Vliet is survived by his wife of 40 years, Jan.
This is incredibly sad news. A major loss in the world of music. It was only in January of this year that I started listening to his music. It has had a huge impact on me and as a result, I've got all 12 of his album. Don might be gone but his music will live on forever.
Rest in peace, Don. Say hello to Frank for us!