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Don van Vliet


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Don Glen Vliet (born January 15, 1941 in Glendale, California - died 17 December 2010 in California), was a musician and painter, best known under the pseudonym Captain Beefheart as leader of Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band. He extended his name to Don Van Vliet during the early 1960s.

Vliet’s output is rooted in blues music and rock music, but his idiosyncratic, diverse approach largely defies classification. Much of his work was conducted with a rotating assembly of musicians called the Magic Band. He was mainly a singer, but Vliet was a capable harmonica player, and occasionally played noisy, untrained, free jazz influenced saxophone. Among the most important of “underground rock” musicians, Captain Beefheart’s legacy is one of poor record sales, critical acclaim, and a devoted following.

He was name-checked on the cover of “Freak Out!” (1966) under the heading “These People Have Contributed Materially In Many Ways To Make Our Music What It Is. Please Do Not Hold It Against Them”. He is also pictured in the collage on the “We’re Only In It For The Money” (1968) cover. And he is mentioned in “The Real Frank Zappa Book” (1989), of course. In 1980, FZ featured as guest DJ on BBC Radio 1; one of the tracks he played was “Golden Birdies”, by Captain Beefheart (“Star Special”).

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