Avant-garde legend Captain Beefheart, born Don Vliet (he later changed his name to Don Van Vliet), died yesterday from complications due to multiple sclerosis. He was 69. The news was reported to Rolling Stone by Vliet’s management.
Captain Beefheart’s catalogue is highlighted by his 1967 release, Safe as Milk, and 1969’s seminal Trout Mask Replica. Both albums were recorded with his Magic Band, an expansive, ever-changing collective of musicians who lived communally with Vliet while recording Replica.
Vliet’s brand of experimental psychedelia was a highly conceptual and individualistic synthesis of disparate American genres, and his lyrics brought a blast of high-art surrealism previously unheard in rock. Vliet bowed out of his recording career gracefully in 1982 and moved to the Mojave Desert to concentrate on drawing and painting.