Rolling Stone and several other sources have reported that Don Van Vliet, the notoriously reclusive rock legend best known as Captain Beefheart has died today (December 17, 2010)
According to the article on Rolling Stone's website:
Don Van Vliet, who became a rock legend as Captain Beefheart, died today from complications from multiple sclerosis in California. His passing was announced by the New York-based Michael Werner Gallery, which represented his work as a painter.
His Trout Mask Replica was number 58 onRolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time....
"Don Van Vliet was a complex and influential figure in the visual and performing arts," the gallery said in a statement. "He is perhaps best known as the incomparable Captain Beefheart who, together with his Magic Band, rose to prominence in the 1960s with a totally unique style of blues-inspired, experimental rock & roll. This would ultimately secure Van Vliet's place in music history as one of the most original recording artists of his time. After two decades in the spotlight as an avant-garde composer and performer, Van Vliet retired from performing to devote himself wholeheartedly to painting and drawing. Like his music, Van Vliet's lush paintings are the product of a truly rare and unique vision."
Craig Young has posted a bit more information about his career and the circumstances of his death HERE but, to me, the more important story is the impact Captain Beefheart had on his fans and his fellow artists. Back when I was still heavily into grunge and metal with a little rap and classic rock on the side (years before I discovered Americana, whatever that is), I stumbled across an ancient vinyl record of Trout Mask Replica, and from the first notes of "Frownland" my perception of what rock and roll is and could be was forever changed. I also credit Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and a few others with helping me out in this regard, but Beefheart was the first. Without him, I probably would have never checked out Tom Waits or half of the artists I love today.