Avant-garde rock pioneer Captain Beefheart, also known as Don Van Vliet, died Friday (Dec. 17).
Van Vliet, 69, died early Friday at a Northern California hospital, EW reports. He had been suffering from multiple sclerosis.
Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band never had a hit in the United States (a couple of the band’s albums reached the top 25 in the U.K.), but his influence runs deep in rock ‘n’ roll. Artists ranging from John Lennon to Beck to PJ Harvey have sung Captain Beefheart’s praises and covered his music.
]]>Frank Zappa, who produced the band’s 1969 double album “Trout Mask Replica,” a subject of critical adoration ever since its release. Both Van Vliet and Zappa were influenced by the blues, but any number of other sounds and influences (often clashing with one another) come through in Captain Beefheart’s music. “People like music to be in tune because they’ve heard it in tune all the time,” Van Vliet said in a 1978 interview. “I really tried to break that down.” Captain Beefheart released 12 albums between 1967 and 1982, after which Van Vliet devoted himself mostly to visual art. Below is the Captain Beefheart song “Electricity” from the band’s debut album, “Safe As Milk,” and a 1982 appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”