Originally posted by Entertainment Weekly's Music Mix (music-mix.ew.com)Avant-garde rock legend and visual artist Don Van Vliet, who performed under the name Captain Beefheart, passed away today at age 69. A representative of New York City’s Michael Werner Gallery, which hosted several shows of his paintings, confirms the sad news to EW. Van Vliet died of complications from multiple sclerosis at a hospital in Northern California this morning.
Born in California in 1941, Van Vliet dubbed himself Captain Beefheart and began experimenting with eccentric rock’n'roll sounds in the mid-1960s. His first two releases with the Magic Band drew positive notice from some connoisseurs but failed to connect with the wider public. Van Vliet next forged a close creative partnership with Frank Zappa, a former high school classmate, who produced 1969′s Trout Mask Replica. While the bizarre double album was not a major commercial success, it quickly became a cultural landmark. Van Vliet effectively redefined the frontiers of popular music, singing snatches of surreal imagery in disturbing tones over music that drew on blues, jazz, psychedelia, and a thousand other subgenres. The album is still cited today as an essential art-rock document.