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I’m Gonna Grow Fins n’ Go Back In The Water Again: RIP Captain Beefheart 1941-2010

December 19, 2010

From wiki: “It was announced by the Michael Werner Gallery on Friday, December 17, 2010, that Van Vliet had died at a Northern California hospital, weeks short of his 70th birthday. The gallery stated him to be “a complex and influential figure in the visual and performing arts,” and “one of the most original recording artists of his time”. The cause was named as complications from multiple sclerosis.”

It may have been nearly thirty years since he made a record, but Don Van Vliet’s music – all the howls and growls and eellleeecccctttrriiicciiitttttyyy – still resonates deeply. He was also a greatly imaginative and accomplished painter, and a curious fellow indeed; John Peel, who used to drive the Magic Band around the UK for their tours in the sixties, has this anecdote about the great man (taken from The Captain Beefheart Radar Station):

“When we were coming back from Frank Freeman’s, he [Van Vliet] asked if he could listen to a tree. I’ve always thought that’s a really strange thing to have done, but of course it could have been his way of saying that he wanted a pee – probably was. He might have said ‘listen to a tree’, because it rhymed with ‘having a pee’. His thought processes were not like those of other men – you could well believe that he wanted to listen to a tree.

“If anybody else had said it, I would have said ‘stupid bastard’ under my breath. But with Beefheart you thought, well, he knows more than I do and if he wants to listen to a tree, and I’m in a position to enable him to do so, then I’m going to give him a chance to do it, because it would be quite wrong not to. So he got out of the car and disappeared. It was one of those things where Pete Frame ought to have arranged for a plaque to be put there. Beefheart probably just went and had a pee, I don’t know. Or he may have just listened to a tree. I’d like to say that I can see him silhouetted against a gibbous moon with his ear firmly pressed to a fine old elm, but I just don’t know.”

The world needs men like these. RIP. (And now maybe a reissue of Lick My Decals Off Baby please.)

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