In 1984 Don and I had renewed our friendship for many years in north California after we’d both left the music biz. Our homes were only about a mile apart. He came to my office periodically for chiropractic treatment, and we’d also get together frequently just for laughs.
In the late 1980’s he seemed to be developing some neurological symptoms which were resistant to cure from chiropractic adjustments. I told Don and Jan that he needed a consultation with a neurologist. He refused to go, and Jan was unable to convince him. Around 1992 he and I had a falling out. As a result, I never did hear any further reliable information about the course of his health. From what I’ve read recently, it sounds as though he had the progressive form of multiple sclerosis.
We always joked about Zappa, but yet Don —even more so than I— had a deep respect for Frank’s talent. And now I feel the same way about Don Vliet. He was a unique individual with more demons than the average human, but whose talent extended beyond the stratosphere.
The completely unequalled gift that Don had was his cornucopia of ideas; whether they were music phrases, images, paintings/drawings, or third-stream observations, puns and double entendres. His brain was a bottomless well of arts images.
Don had the gift of gab—an extremely hip salesman. He could get you to thinking that yellow was actually red. Don was primarily a painter and sculptor. What he did in music was no different from what was represented by the images in his wonderful paintings. You could say that whenever Don was with other people, in most circumstances, they were participants in a painting. That was predominantly Don’s view of life: as an art statement, with reality being a nuisance. Symbolism took precedence over substance. The art world has lost a major force, and Don’s friends will always recall the times that they spent with him.
My thoughts now shift to his wonderful wife, Jan. I hope she doesn’t suffer too long. She was devoted to Don for 40 years, and a man could not have asked for, nor have received, a better wife. She is a strong woman who will begin a new chapter in her life now with the wind at her back.
19 December 2010