RIP: Don van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart

We’d been hearing rumors quite awhile now, but here’s the Wikipedia piece on the Captain’s life and death. If you haven’t heard his music, for goodness’ sake do it. Once I saw him and the Magic Band at Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh; they were touring behind Clear Spot at the time, so the band included Rockette Morton, John French as Drumbo, et al. They played an extended set because Dr. John, the original warmup, missed a connection; Beefheart, however, walked off at the close of the regular set and it was quite a while before the Band returned without him—to play a medley—instrumental, mind—from Trout Mask. Then Beefheart returned to the stage for a full-out version of “Mirror Man” during which he broke hiis mic while yelling at the crowd GET UP which we already were. He knew it, I’m sure. I think he just wanted to break the mic to show us he could, which by God he did. Still we could hear him: “GET UP! GET UP!”

Which we did. I took with me a young lady who’d never been to a rock concert before in her life. In the end she stood up as though she was getting it. I sure hope she did. I hope you do or will also respect this moment because Beefheart’s best music is as good as music gets.

Anyway, tonight’s a sad night. All good wishes to his friends and family. Woe-is-uh-me, yeah. And we’re all a lot less for his passing.

PS: This evening I said a little prayer for Don, pausing my iTunes in the process; who’d I hear next (after playing “Woe-Is-a-Me-Bop”)? Rahsaan Roland Kirk playing “Hip Chops.”

Life will continue, following this pause for prayers. Tonight, I think Don had some fascinating compositional chops for sure, and that voice, by God that voice—John French and damn few others can even approximate it. One very sad night we all knew was coming.


About johnwylam1957

I'm a poet and teacher now living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
This entry was posted in Notes on Living and Dealing with Illness, Re: Music. Bookmark the permalink.

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