Don Van Vliet — better known as his music persona Captain Beefheart — has died at the age of 69 due to complications from MS.
Born Don Vliet, the musician and artist was known for his early collaborations with musical kindred Frank Zappa, and for he and his backers Magic Band’s experiements in rock, combining traditional pop musics like blues, garage rock and R&B with neo-classical and free jazz.
Captain Beefheart released more than a dozen albums, with a couple live and anthology sets after he retired from music in 1982. One of the best known efforts “Trout Mask Replica” was released in 1969, met with confusion, then critical acclaim; it is now part of the permanent rock canon, for its experimental nature, unusual production qualities and its epic 28 tracks, recorded with the freedom granted by friend, producer, fellow musician and label founder Zappa.
Vliet retired a pair of times in his music career, wanting to working in and out of the visual arts and out of frustration with the industry. After 1982, he moved back to the Mojave desert — a critical space in his upbringing — and continued painting out of a trailer before dropping out of public sight entirely in the 1990s.
New wave, punk music and rock music in general benefited from Captain Beefheart’s contributions. Despite having disappeared for two decades, he will still be truly missed.