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It’s with great sadness that we share the sad news that Don Van Vliet, also known as Captain Beefheart, passed away on 17th December at the age of 69. Born in 1941 in California to impoverished parents, Van Vliet had little patience for a formal education and claimed that ‘if you want to be a different fish, you got to jump out of the school’. In his teens, he developed a ‘mutually useful, if volatile’ friendship with Frank Zappa – another rock legend. The pair collaborated on a fairly sporadic basis, and this unusual relationship helped Van Vliet to redefine the modern music scene. Van Vliet rose to fame in the 60’s with his unique style which was manifested as a blend of blues, psychedelia, jazz and rock and roll.
Van Vliet was widely regarded as one of the most original recording artists of his time; broadcaster and critic John Peel described him as ‘rock music’s only true genius’. Artists such as Nick Cave, Franz Ferdinand, Oasis, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and the White Stripes all credit him for inspiration Aside from his musical career, Van Vliet was an exceptional sculptor and artist. Having disowned his ‘Captain Beefheart’ persona, he spent his later years painting and drawing, and made a commercial success of his art. He will be greatly missed by many.