One of the most important figures in modern music, Don Van Vliet, was born 71 years ago today. Best known by the stage and recording name, Captain Beefheart, Van Vliet was responsible for some of the most original and beguiling sounds to rattle popular music. Combining the sensuality of the blues, the fearless exploration of the avant-garde and the visceral onslaught of free-jazz, Van Vliet created music that truly defies categorization. To call him a rule-breaker would be misleading, as Van Vliet didn’t know the rules to begin with. His inability to read music or communicate with accepted forms along with his legendary charisma that attracted a spectacular cast of support musicians known as the Magic Band made Van Vliet’s accomplishments all the more astounding. His 1969 LP, Trout Mask Replica, remains a maddening masterpiece that, upon first listen, seems nearly impenetrable but eventually yields countless revelations. Like many artists before him and since, Van Vliet’s work was often obscured by the machinations of the music business and was a key factor in his walking away from it altogether in the early ‘80s after recording 12 albums. A visual artist since childhood, Beefheart spent the rest of his days painting until his death on December 17, 2010 due to complications from multiple sclerosis.
On tonight's Just Music, Jeff and Casey will pay tribute to Don Van Vliet--one of popular music's greatest iconoclasts.