Captain Beefheart, the stage name of Don Van Vliet, and the ringleader of The Magic Band, died yesterday on December 17th 2010.
I don’t know very much about Captain Beefheart. I had heard of his as this nuttier version of Frank Zappa, an innovative musician who bent rules and defied genres. His music was wacky, but surprisingly accessible. Like the Velvet Underground, every band trying to sound like they had good and interesting tastes would cite him as an influence.
But at his core, he was truly a bluesman. Sure, a bluesman who also dabbled in rock, avant-garde jazz, and experimental music, but a bluesman nonetheless.
And so, to remember him as a musician, check out the opening track of his debut album Safe As Milk. The track opens with “I was born in the desert came on up from New Orleans.” And this is how I think of Captain Beefheart – part bluesman, part New Orleans jazzman, part desert weirdo; the opening line to his musical career sums up his life, his music, and his legacy.
Captain Beefheart – Sure ‘Nuff ‘N Yes I Do