Captain Beefheart Dead at 69

Written By Rana G on Friday, December 17, 2010 | 7:50 PM

captain beefheart dead, don van vliet, frank zappa, clip đột kích vũ trường new century, horse outside Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Captain Beefheart, aka Don Van Vliet, died Friday. According to Entertainment Weekly, the avant garde rocker passed away at a California hospital due to complications from multiple sclerosis. He was 69.

The Captain, mostly remembered today as an icon from a certain time and place in American history, had command over an impressive four-and-a-half octave range. And while he had a vast working knowledge of a seemingly incongruous mix of genres -- from acid jazz to modern classical -- which he employed in his own blend of rock 'n' roll, truth be told, his unique fusion is best remembered as being, simply, true psychedelia.

Captain Beefheart will also forever remain loosely associated with Frank Zappa, whom he met as a teenager living with his family in the Mojave Desert. It was in that geographic location where he formed the Magic Band in 1964 -- his backing group, which would undergo many transformations in the years that followed. With their commercially challenging, though blues-based, sound, Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band would have several ill-fated dealings with record labels and releases, several of which left Beefheart disillusioned and, temporarily, unwilling to continue making music. He always returned, however, with an even more uncompromising vision.

In 1982, Beefheart retired from making music permanently, despite having attained near-mythical status among a certain demographic of music fan. His often underwhelming album sales in no way reflected the magnitude of his influence, however Beefheart spent most of the 1980s focused on his artwork, which was his original talent and love as a child.

Reissues, anthologies, covers and legend kept interest in Captain Beefheart very much alive and relevant in the years since, and his influence remains today, as felt and witnessed via a number of experimental artists from a variety of genres.

Captain Beefheart's 'Ice Cream for Crow' Video
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