Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don Van Vliet is Dead, Long Live Captain Beefheart

Don Van Vliet, better known—to those that knew of him at all—as Captain Beefheart, died yesterday of complications related to multiple sclerosis.  The Captain was 69.  There's no way I could improve upon the obituary that's already been written by Ben Ratliff for The New York Times, so read that.  And listen to this: the title track from the 1967 album Safe As Milk, as performed for French television in 1980.

Though I eventually came to be a big fan of Van Vliet's own music, I first came to know him through his work with Frank Zappa, who produced what was arguably Captain Beefheart's most influential album, Trout Mask Replica. Though it might be fair to think of Zappa and Van Vliet as peers or joint mentors, I tend to think of them more as co-conspirators.  So here's a peek into that side of things, too, via "Willie the Pimp" from Zappa's 1969 release, Hot Rats.

Rest in peace, Don (and Frank).


TWG said...

Listen son, you're not old enough to remember the release of Hot Rats, you're one of them there punk rockers or some such.

Course I have to admit I'm not old enough either, but I still love the album. Captain Beefheart was on the periphery of my musical exposure, much to my loss.

Rich said...

Beefhart was an eccentric original (the best kind). From Safe as Milk and Trout Mask Replica to Doc at the Radar Station and Ice Cream for Crow, well...just check 'em out. He lives on in his music. Thanks for the obit David.

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