Friday, December 17, 2010
Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, passed away today at a Northern California hospital at the age of 69.
The cause of death was named as complications from multiple sclerosis.
Van Vliet's musical work was conducted with a rotating ensemble of musicians he called The Magic Band, active between 1965 and 1982, with whom he recorded 12 studio albums.
Noted for his powerful singing voice with its wide range, Van Vliet also played the harmonica, saxophone and numerous other wind instruments.
His music blended rock, blues and psychedelia with free jazz, avant-garde and contemporary experimental composition.
During his teen years in Lancaster, California, Van Vliet acquired an eclectic musical taste and formed "a mutually useful but volatile" friendship with Frank Zappa, with whom he sporadically competed and collaborated.
Known for his enigmatic personality and relationship with the public, Van Vliet made few public appearances after his retirement from music (and from his Beefheart persona) in 1982 to pursue a career in art, an interest that originated in his childhood talent for sculpture.
RIP Captain Beefheart.