Saturday, December 18, 2010

R.I.P. Captain Beefheart

We take a break from the usual political commentary and Christmas postings to note with sorrow the passing of Captain Beefheart.
Avant-garde rock legend and visual artist Don Van Vliet, who performed under the name Captain Beefheart, passed away today at age 69. A representative of New York City’s Michael Werner Gallery, which showed his paintings, confirms the sad news to EW. Van Vliet died of complications from multiple sclerosis at a hospital in Northern California this morning.

Born in California in 1941, Van Vliet dubbed himself Captain Beefheart and began experimenting with eccentric rock’n'roll sounds in the mid-1960s. His first two releases with the Magic Band drew positive notice from some connoisseurs but failed to connect with the wider public. Van Vliet next forged a close creative partnership with Frank Zappa, a former high school classmate, who signed Beefheart to his Straight Records and produced 1969′s Trout Mask Replica. While the bizarre double album was not a major commercial success, it quickly became a cultural landmark. Van Vliet effectively redefined the frontiers of popular music, singing snatches of surreal imagery in disturbing tones over music that drew on blues, jazz, psychedelia, and a thousand other subgenres. 
Cutting through all the flowery artsy-fartsy wording above, C.B. was a pioneer and key player in the counter-culture and musical revolution of the 60's. He was part of my misguided youth. His death is just another sign, along with receding hair and popping joints (body parts, not seeds-and-stems doobies) that I'm getting old.

Rest in Peace, Cap...

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