Don Van Vliet

Artist, Blues Singer and Musician

15th. January 1941 to 17th. December 2010

Van Vliet is often referred to as an avant-garde performer. I think this is a wrong and lazy description of the great man. There were times when the Magic Band got a bit silly, especially when they were young men and that was a bit difficult to listen to without feeling embarrassed. But the bedrock of their repertoire was just, basic country blues. If you listen to recordings of pre-blues revival, black performers you will find their stylings just as weird and unconventional as the Captain's musical arrangements. The only reason why he was regarded as "way out" by white kids is because most of them had never listened to rural black blues music and the blues most of them were listening to at the time was the bland, soft rock stylings of Eric Clapton and his contemporaries or the urban rock of performers such as Janis Joplin. Basically, Don Van Vliet proved that white men could sing the blues but only if, like him, they listened to and respected those from whom it came.

The title of this post was going to be a quote from an Elvis Costello song. Unfortunately many of my readers are too pre-programmed to have appreciated it. But, I'm sure some of you out there will get where I'm coming from and shed a tear with me for the way the world has lost all of its passion in the last 30 years.



  1. Pardon me, but I have not lost my passion.

    Van Vliet is often referred to as an avant-garde performer. I think this is a wrong and lazy description of the great man.

    One might even say the reference to avant-garde is laughable, but every account of the Captain’s passing that I’ve read labels him an avant-garde musician. Perhaps his melding of musical styles was unique.

    I confess that I’m not a fan of all Captain Beafheart’s music, but you’ve arranged a fine mix here.

  2. Thanks for the post and the audio. I remember hearing Captain Beefheart for the first time on John Peel’s show in 196x (doesn’t matter). I remember feeling I didn’t quite understand the music but liking it a lot.

  3. FWIW, Mad Priest, I ran your words past a friend of mine who adores Captain Beefheart and he said the following: “Yes, pretty much bang on. Listen to leadbelly or howlin wolf and that’s beefheart.” I know you don’t need the backup but there it is.

  4. Thanks, Cathy. And when it comes to music I do actually appreciate agreement as it’s my life long passion. It’s like an academic being told his latest research is spot on.