Don van Vliet / Captain Beefheart dies, aged 69

Sad news: Don Van Vliet, the avant-garde bluesman, surrealist painter, and world-class eccentric, has died, as confirmed to multiple outlets by a rep from the Michael Werner Gallery, which often showed his work. He would have turned 70 in January. The man behind unclassifiable and inimitable critic-beloved masterpieces like 1969’s Trout Mask Replica (produced by Frank Zappa) and 1978’s Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), the California native has been personally mostly off the grid for decades, content to tend to his painting in relative seclusion.

Beefheart’s 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. An iconoclastic mix of complex instrumentation, atonal melodies, and often humorously surreal lyrics, it was crafted through dictatorial control over his musicians and creative vision.

Read the Wikipedia entry on Captain Beefheart.