R.I.P. Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart): January 15, 1941–December 17, 2010

Captain Beefheart, the iconoclastic rocker with the gravely voice of a Delta bluesman, hardwired to the lyrical stream-of-consciousness of James Joyce and William Burroughs, is dead at the age of 69 after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. Born Don Vliet in 1941, the singer was an early associate of Frank Zappa—both spent their teenage years in the Southern California desert community of Lancaster—before moving to Los Angeles and taking the rock world by storm in the mid-’60s. The frontman for Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band is best remembered for mindboggling classic early albums Trout Mask Replica, Strictly Personal, Safe As Milk and Lick My Decals Off, Baby. Beefheart employed a brilliant backing outfit during his halcyon years composed of larger-than-life characters who assumed the names of Zoot Horn Rollo, Rockette Morton, Winged Eel Fingerling and Drumbo French. Musicians would sometimes drift back and forth between Beefheart’s Magic Band and Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. It wasn’t surprising that Beefheart’s hardscrabble caterwaul seemed equally at home in cutting-edge art galleries as it did in post-hippie rock halls. Beefheart, under the name Don Van Vliet, was as well known for his inimitable paintings, dripping with a lavish color sense, as he was for his incendiary music. The Sundazed family is deeply saddened by the passing of this multi-talented musical genius.

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