One year ago today Don Van Vliet, known to the many as Captain Beefheart, a musician (harmonica … referred to as “harp” as in the jazz expression), vocalist and visual artist, died of Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 69.
Beefheart’s ongoing relationship with Zappa, while not always cordial when he and his Magic Band competed with Frank, began before the creation of the Mothers, when they played together around Cucomunga, CA, and in the early Mothers recordings. He was often billed as a lead vocalist with Zappa.
Anyway, you can’t have Zappadan without remembering Van Vliet.
Here’s a piece from Beefheart and his Magic Band:
Ice Cream For Crow
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band; directed by Don Van Vliet (with much uncredited assistance from producer Ken Schreiber), cinematography by Daniel Pearl (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre); Don Van Vliet (vocals, harp), Gary Lucas (guitar), Jeff Tepper (guitar), Rick Snyder (bass), Cliff Martinez (drums); filmed on location in the High Mojave Desert near Lancaster, California; clip rejected by MTV USA as “too weird” upon release, now in the Permanent Film and Video Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, NYC; track taken from the 1982 Virgin album “Ice Cream for Crow”
And just to remember Frank as well, here’s a piece with them both:
Don Van Vliet was an American musician and visual artist best known by the stage name Captain Beefheart. His musical work was conducted with a rotating ensemble of musicians called The Magic Band, active between 1965 and 1982, with whom he recorded 12 studio albums. Noted for his powerful singing voice with its wide range, Van Vliet also played the harmonica, saxophone and numerous other wind instruments. His music blended rock, blues and psychedelia with free jazz, avant-garde and contemporary experimental composition.
During his teen years in Lancaster, California, Van Vliet acquired an eclectic musical taste and formed “a mutually useful but volatile” friendship with Frank Zappa, with whom he sporadically competed and collaborated. He died after many years suffering from multiple sclerosis. He was 69.
Zappa and Beefheart: Orange Claw Hammer, Live 1975.
- Captain Beefheart Dies at 69: Trout Mask Replica & Beyond (nowpublic.com)
- RIP, Captain Beefheart (littlegreenfootballs.com)
- WFMU Auction: Steinski & Double Dee 12″ + Captain Beefheart art (wfmu.org)