Friday, December 17, 2010

R.I.P. Captain Beefheart: January 15, 1941 - December 17, 2010

So today Captain Beefheart died. Maybe he died thirty years ago when Don Van Vliet said so. After demolishing all accepted norms and practices for "rock" music Van Vliet walked away. He was an artist and maybe he said all he could say with sound, maybe the desert spirit's spell was too strong to resist. He didn't make music, he took it's rotting corpse and burned it,smeared the ashes on a cactus and took a picture. He made blues out of oranges and reds, conjured monsters from electricity and wire. No artist made more of an impression on my youthful mind when all that wasn't Top 40 excited me. I picked up Trout Mask Replica, having read it was an "important" record. I didn't even like it but I was drawn to it. It made no sense to me. Up until that point I wanted music to pat my forehead and tell me everything was going to be ok in the most matronly way possible. I needed a soft kiss before the nightmares and Beefheart's music was the fever dream: vivid, disorienting, and impossible to describe to the healthy minds and ears chosen to protect us from the other. Eventually, I came to realize music wasn't the end, it was the means and Don Van Vliet was my greatest teacher.

I did a special tribute to Captain Beefheart with my friend/cohost of
Just Music Casey Block today on East Village Radio. You can stream the archive here:

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