Captain Beefeheart, born Don Van Vliet, died on Friday, Dec. 17, less than a month short of his 70th birthday.
He reportedly died of complications of multiple sclerosis.
He was a bizarre and influential musical genius. Here’s Pitchfork‘s bio:
Van Vliet collaborated with Frank Zappa before adopting the Captain Beefheart persona and forming Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, his constantly shifting backing band, in 1964. On the strength of the blues-rock single “Diddy Wah Diddy”, Beefheart and his band signed to A&M. After the label rejected their debut album, Beefheart and co. re-recorded many of the songs and eventually released them as the classic 1967 debut album Safe as Milk.
After signing with Zappa’s Straight Records, Beefheart released the legendary 1969 double LP Trout Mask Replica. Following that surreal masterpiece, Beefheart recorded and released more albums, seesawing back and forth between euphoric bizarreness and more conventional rock. Beefheart retired from music after 1982’s Ice Cream for Crow, retreating to the Mojave Desert and focusing on his visual art. Though his art career was quite successful, he disappeared from public life, reportedly suffering from multiple sclerosis.