Monday, December 20, 2010

oh captain, my captain

I was working on another post when I heard the news: Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, died Friday evening. I know you've probably seen write-ups at tons of other websites but bear with me as I pay my own tribute.
The Captain
You've likely heard of Captain Beefheart (and His Magic Band) even if you never listened to his music. The album Trout Mask Replica is on pretty much every larger greatest albums list out there and you'll find quite a few statements on Beefheart from other musicians and artists who fared better in the mainstream. But the guy didn't write music ready for radio play and will always remain more of a cult figure than some rock legend. So what's the big deal?

Let me tell you.

Van Vliet was one of the rare breed of artists who never compromised his vision, regardless of how bizarre that vision may have seemed to everyone else. He wasn't for mass consumption and never pretended to be. He read the rulebooks of genre, sonic quality, and commercial viability and promptly told them to go fuck themselves. Maybe despite this, or more likely because of it, he was a bastion to other musicians who want to focus on their art rather than their album sales. Frank Zappa was a longtime friend and collaborator. Tom Waits found something he'd been looking for in Trout Mask Replica and started modifying his sound. Beefheart was a muse, changing the face of music and inspiring others to do the same. That's why he was so important.
You can dig deeper into the man, the music, the strange history of how his opus of an album was recorded, on your own. I'll just throw a couple songs out here so you can listen in. You may love them, you may hate them, but you can't deny they're unlike anything else you've heard. Rest in peace, you strange, brilliant man.

Click to play Captain Beefheart - Ella Guru

Click to play Captain Beefheart - When Big Joan Sets Up

Click to play Captain Beefheart - China Pig


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