Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Captain Beefheart, 1941-2010

Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, was an uncompromising artist and musical pioneer, whose influence on contemporary music and musicians has been enormous. The list includes: Tom Waits, Deerhoof, Pavement, Marc Ribot, Nels Cline, Gang of Four, Beck, Jack White, John Zorn and The Minutemen, to name a few. In a recent LA Times obituary, Tom Waits succinctly (and poetically) expressed his lament of Van Vliet's death (due to complications from MS):

"He was like the scout on a wagon train," Waits wrote in an e-mail Friday. "He was the one who goes ahead and shows the way. He was a demanding bandleader, a transcendental composer (with emphasis on the dental), up there with Ornette [Coleman], Sun Ra and Miles [Davis]. He drew in the air with a burnt stick. He described the indescribable. He's an underground stream and a big yellow blimp.

"I will miss talking to him on the phone. We would describe what we saw out of our windows. He was a rememberer. He was the only one who thought to bring matches. He's the alpha and the omega. The high water mark. He's gone and he won't be back."

He will be missed, though his music still stands as a force.

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