Normally, I do not write obituaries or even acknowledge those who have passed away, but for this man I will make an exception – Captain Beefheart.
Captain Beefheart (or Donald Glen Vlietif if you like) was (is) a musical legend who produced album after album of the most extraordinary music. His music pushed me in my teenage years to appreciate music for more than its immediate raw impact. For it was through Beefheart’s music that I learnt you had to spend time to appreciate true musical genius. He did not lend himself to one hit wonders. He did not lend himself to the radio, the TV or the press in general. Instead he forced you to sit and contemplate what on earth he had just done. He created his own style (a bizarre merge of blues and jazz with other “sounds”).
He hit a line in music that is finely trod between genius and insanity, and even to this day I cannot tell you which way he finally fell. All I can really tell you is that he increased my musical “intelligence” – the desire to search for something deeper in music.
Without Beefheart, I am convinced we would not have had Watt, Talking Heads or Radiohead as we know them. Beefheart set a boundary (and then regularly broke it) about what was, and wasn’t acceptable in terms of song structure, merging of genre’s or even the use of vocals. I am saddened by his death, but I also remain confused and intrigued by his music. I still don’t get, I don’t always like it, but I feel inexplicably indebted to him.
For a real write up of a great man’s life see the Guardian article here