Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet) was an American singer, songwriter, musician and artist whose truly original work combined elements of free jazz, blues and rock.

Don Van Vliet was a musically gifted child who developed an eclectic taste during his teen years in California. He became friends with Frank Zappa who signed him to his label following the Magic Band’s debut release Safe as Milk.

As producer, Zappa granted Beefheart unrestrained artistic freedom in making 1969’s Trout Mask Replica – ranked 58th in Rolling Stone magazine’s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Fun Fact

Noted for his powerful singing voice and incredible four-and-one-half octave vocal range Captain Beefheart also played the harmonica, saxophone, and numerous other wind instruments. He recorded 13 studio albums with a rotating ensemble of musicians called the Magic Band (1964–1982), over whom he exerted an almost dictatorial control.

Van Vliet was one of modern music’s true innovators employing idiosyncratic rhythms, absurdist lyrics and an unholy alliance of free jazz, Delta blues, latter-day classical music and rock & roll to create a singular body of work virtually unrivalled in its daring and fluid creativity.

Although he achieved little commercial or mainstream critical success he sustained a cult following as a highly significant influence on an array of new wave, punk, post-punk, experimental and alternative rock musicians.

About this Contributor

Given name
Don Glen
Family name
Birth date
Death date
Contributor type

Minutes by Captain Beefheart