Captain Beefheart R.I.P.

Captain Beefheart 1941-2010


The avant-garde rock musician passed away of complications from multiple sclerosis.

Don Van Vliet, who blended rock, blues, psychedelia and free jazz under the stage name Captain Beefheart, died Friday of complications from multiple sclerosis in a Northern California hospital. He was 69.

From 1965-82, Beefheart worked with a rotating ensemble of musicians called the Magic Band, with whom he recorded 12 studio albums. Van Vliet sang and played the harmonica and saxophone among many other instruments.

After two decades in music, Van Vliet retired from performing to devote himself to painting and drawing. New York City’s Michael Werner Gallery hosted several shows of Beefheart’s paintings and confirmed the musician’s death Friday.

A native of Lancaster, Calif., Van Vliet was friends and a regular collaborator with another eclectic California musician, Frank Zappa.

Van Vliet began performing as Captain Beefheart in 1964, and the Magic Band’s first album, 1967’s Safe as Milk, was highly regarded. His first bandmates were guitarists Alex St. Clair and Doug Moon, bassist Jerry Handley and drummer Paul Blakely.

After a stint at A&M, they signed to Zappa’s Straight Records, which in 1969 released Trout Mask Replica, ranked No. 58 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

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