« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Don Van Vliet, a.k.a. Captain Beefheart, dies [Updated]

 Sad news from Northern California: Avant blues/rock/free jazz iconoclast Don Van Vliet, best known as Captain Beefheart, has died. The singer, who hadn't released a record since 1982's "Ice Cream for Crow," was also an acclaimed visual artist whose work was represented by the Michael Werner Gallery, which confirmed his death. Van Vliet had reportedly suffered from multiple sclerosis for the last 20 years.

This statement was released by the Michael Werner Gallery:

It is with great sadness that Michael Werner Gallery announces the death of Don Van Vliet. The artist, who was 69, died 17 December 2010 in California, from complications of multiple sclerosis.

 Don Van Vliet was a complex and influential figure in the visual and performing arts. He is perhaps best known as the incomparable Captain Beefheart who, together with his Magic Band, rose to prominence in the 1960s with a totally unique style of blues-inspired, experimental rock & roll. This would ultimately secure Van Vliet's place in music history as one of the most original recording artists of his time. After two decades in the spotlight as an avant-garde composer and performer, Van Vliet retired from performing to devote himself wholeheartedly to painting and drawing. Like his music, Van Vliet's lush paintings are the product of a truly rare and unique vision.

The Gallery sends its deepest sympathies to Jan Van Vliet, the artist's wife of over 40 years. Don Van Vliet will be sorely missed.

Pop & Hiss will provide updated information as it arrives; last week, we wrote about the upcoming Captain Beefheart Symposium, organized by former Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band member Gary Lucas. Above is Van Vliet's video, for the song "Ice Cream for Crow."

[Updated: Richard Cromelin has written an obituary of Don Van Vliet for the Times, which features remembrances from kindred spirit Tom Waits, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, and writer Kristine McKenna. Read it here. ]

-- Randall Roberts

 
Comments () | Archives (25)

His kind doesn't walk the earth very often.

RIP Don!

This is sad information. And he will be missed.


In a world of 15 minutes of fame and shallow celebrity....he was a Giant.

"A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast 'n' bulbous,got me?"

RIP, Don.

Very sad day, He was a great artist ! He will be missed . I saw the Caption a few times along the way. His artwork was wonderful . Hearing of his passing , made me think of one of his great lines: GIVEN THAT HARP BOY , THAT AINT NO CHILDS TOY. Handed him and a few members in his band some coats in outside the Main Point Pa . Great band ! I will miss him
Hope the gang is hanging out . Hope to see you guys soon . Hope you have peace and your pain and suffering is over. You gave great joy in your music and your art Thank You again .
Luke

One of the wiggiest madmen to stomp the terra firma... he was a true visionary. I worked in a record store where The Captain signed the bathroom wall, "Love Over Gold...", that's how he lived. A true surrealist.

His music will live on, he was totally original

Oh, captain, my captain. Sad, sad news, indeed. The first time I saw Don and The Magic Band, my buddy, Josh, and I hitchhiked about 110 miles from Penn State in a snowstorm to their gig at Carnegie Mellon (circa 1970). Afterwards, we spoke with Don, Zoot Horn Rollo and the guys. Years later, now living in L.A., I approached Don backstage after a Magic Band show at The Whisky and mentioned that I'd spoken with him at CMU. He smiled, and in that gruff voice, replied, "Yeah, I remember you." What a loss to both music and art. RIP, Don, and God bless you, Jan.

("The moon was a drip on a dark hood....")

Captain Beefheart you will be missed-rest in peace. My condolences to his widow
and members of his family-immediate and extended. God bless.

As I recall, Rolling Stone once (rightfully) called him the greatest white blues singer ever. One of a kind that will rarely be seen again. I'll never forget seeing him live (along with Martin Mull) at the Troub back in the 70's.

I saw the at college captain in Buffalo in 1977. Great artist and great man!

His wonderful poem, particularly apt at this moment:

"The stars are matter
We're matter
But it doesn't matter"

my human is so blue.

Oh no! My older brother turned me on to Captain Beefheart when I was a teen. My condolences to his family and friends. He will be missed!

I saw him a couple of times in Liverpool too many years ago now but the memories are as vivid as the moonbeams on the snow outside my window. Time to wake the neighbours with a tune...fast and bulbous

One of the great ones. He will indeed be missed.

The mascara snake making its appearance at the Rainbow in London. The wild pictures on show in Brighton. Ah dear - such energy now gone.

I expect the Good Captain said to St Peter, 'Gimme Dat Harp Boy'. The passing of a master brings sadness, but this was a merciful release.

Most deservedly one of the greats. As I recall, Rolling Stone called him the greatest white blues singer ever. One of my best musical memories is seeing him at the Troub back in the early 70's. (Martin Mull was the opening act, and interestingly, both have become well-respected painters.)

R.I.P. Captain
"My head hung down I felt really bad
Now I'm glad, glad about the good times that we've had"

One of the greatest is gone into the timeless void!
All love to him from Sweden..//Emil

i shed a tin tear drop

"Oh Captain...."my Beefheart. I missed him before hearing of his death.The sadness is compounded by the reality of never again experiencing that energy to the realization that the hyenas will begin nosing their way in to survey the post phase.To try his clothes on ,walk around in his shoes seeing if they can pass off works in progress as their own- in short ,anything & everything that isn't tied down by copyright.
The "imposter /facsimile " will bide his time waiting out the appropriate & plausible period of mourning before taking the stage. Indeed,dreams do come through .

Its so sad to hear of the death of such a true musical genius, especially in the age of X-factor and its sins against original and creative music, to realise that 99% of the world will never understand not only what he was about but will never even hear of Him. He meant, and means the world to me in musical terms. In the age of prog rock and other musical sins I happened upon him purely by accident when I purchased a copy of Led Zeppelin 111 and was given the choice of a free album from a box of leftovers which in a small Irish Provincial town obviously did not sell. I was intrigued by the name of the band and the title of the album (which of course at that time would have been referred to as an LP). The album was Safe as Milk which I still have and treasure to this day. It not only opened my eyes to the magic of RnB, which again kiddies meant something completely different in those far off days to what it does today, but was also the door to many different forms of music which influenced him! I tried to explain to my friends what a discovery I had made, but none of them were taken by this music like I was.
Over the years I discovered his most famous (infamous?) work Trout Mask Replica and all the albums which followed. When he stopped making music in the early 80's I really felt like I had lost something precious which could never be replaced and indeed today on his death we really have.
May he rest in peace.

Its so sad to hear of the death of such a true musical genius, especially in the age of X-factor and its sins against original and creative music, to realise that 99% of the world will never understand not only what he was about but will never even hear of Him. He meant, and means the world to me in musical terms. In the age of prog rock and other musical sins I happened upon him purely by accident when I purchased a copy of Led Zeppelin 111 and was given the choice of a free album from a box of leftovers which in a small Irish Provincial town obviously did not sell. I was intrigued by the name of the band and the title of the album (which of course at that time would have been referred to as an LP). The album was Safe as Milk which I still have and treasure to this day. It not only opened my eyes to the magic of RnB, which again kiddies meant something completely different in those far off days to what it does today, but was also the door to many different forms of music which influenced him! I tried to explain to my friends what a discovery I had made, but none of them were taken by this music like I was.
Over the years I discovered his most famous (infamous?) work Trout Mask Replica and all the albums which followed. When he stopped making music in the early 80's I really felt like I had lost something precious which could never be replaced and indeed today on his death we really have.
May he rest in peace.

just a chance to send my condolences to Jan and all Don's family, friends and fans. I've been a big, big fan since the 60s and Captain's music shaped me like no other music, before or since. So great going to see his shows with Ry Cooder, Sabo's Chimps, Mississippi Fred McDowell, David Johansen and the NY Dolls and many other interesting or curious opening acts. Thank you for the vibes, Captain.


Advertisement
Connect

Recommended on Facebook



In Case You Missed It...

Video



Recent Posts


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.

Categories


Archives
 



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: