Don Van Vliet 1941-2010 – Steve’s tribute

We’re very saddened to hear that Don has passed away.

He has succumbed to complications with the multiple sclerosis that he’s been suffering with for many years.

Our thoughts go out to Jan.

The world has lost a unique individual.

Update: 11am 19/12/2010

I have been too upset to write much as yet so have just been watching all the wonderful tributes coming into our blog here and elsewhere across the web. I do hope Don, and Jan, were aware of the great love and respect in which they are held.

Don’s music has been my companion since 1967. Safe As Milk changed my view on music and become the yardstick by which everything else was measured. Strictly Personal was a mind-blowing delight (despite what Don said about it!) … and then, of course, came Trout Mask Replica. I have written elsewhere about how you need to listen in a different way to ‘get it’ … but once you’ve done that music isn’t the same any more.

Like many others I’ve been working my way through my collection of Beefheart albums. Some of those amazing lyrics now taking on an added poignancy or loaded significance. Many of those lyrics have already been quoted in amongst the comments added to this blog so I’ll not repeat them here.

Strangely, the one track which did for me, affected me in a way it has never done before, was the instrumental Big Black Baby Shoes. I didn’t understand at first why this should choke me up more than any of the other more lyrically relevant songs.

I finally realised it was obvious … Don wasn’t there but we still had his astonishing music.

Even after 40 years Don’s music still surprises me, inspires me and makes me smile through its sheer audacity and exuberance. I’m certain it will continue to do so for me, and for future generations who have ears and gotta listen.

Thank you, Don


  1. RIP the mighty Captain – now your good ship will sail forever Xx

  2. Goodnight to the Captain. Such sad news.

    You've left a gaping hole. And a back catalogue that will be critiqued, danced to, replicated and acclaimed for centuries to come.

    You'll still be standing long after most of us have gone.

    Johnny Greatdays.

  3. What a shock. Youth finally gone. No more Captain. May you travel the Yellow Brick Road!

    Willem Minderhout

  4. Captain my Captain


  5. Just heard the news. A sad, sad day.RIP Capt.

  6. Long live Beefheart in the hearts and minds of our generation… and many generations to come.

    To his family, Mr. Van Vliet's many fans are thinking of you and wish for patience and comfort to come your way in this very difficult time.

  7. The Captain's music truly changed my ideas about art.


  8. Had a 'non-meeting' with him in the very early 70s at a UK university gig; Southampton I seem to remember. It was during a break. Being the worse for wear I was using the urinals when I heard Beefheart's voice, talking to some guy. I looked over my shoulder and stared. Problem was that I just stared. He gradually stopped talking to the guy and stared back. After a while staring back and forth a sense of time and place returned and that was that. Not much of a meeting at all.

    Anyway, thank you Don for some of the most wonderful music and poetry ever crafted. The music always makes me feel good. And you were good at painting too!

  9. In a lifetime of watching 2 or 3 concerts a week, everyone of any note. Don remains the most enigmatic man I have ever witnessed in performance. Modern music would not be anything like it is without his work. stve

  10. It doesn't seem possible – a journey from Electricity on – music has lost a hero may his spirit live on

  11. So sad,
    But I'm glad about the good times that we've had.

  12. He created more than music. He opened up a door for those of us who were a little different. He showed us that we can break the mold, experiment and that others will accept the odd and the interesting. His music made me smile. God bless people like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Beck for keeping his music alive. Thank you Don for being unique and not being afraid to show it.

  13. Booglarise 'em Don , Upon th my oh my

  14. Please let us know, Graham, if there's anywhere we can send Jan a note or some other token.

  15. turn up the speakers
    hop flop squawk
    it's a keeper
    ice cream for show
    ice cream for crow
    now now that's it
    now you can go

    thank you and go well, don van vliet, i will miss you

  16. Somehow he managed to give us what we needed. Unique timeless music. You changed our lives. Vale Don van Vliet. X

  17. A true artist. Continuing to open minds long after this day…

  18. My… I feel broken, in shock… Beefheart was in my life with his music, words…
    Goodbye, Don.
    Thanks and love.
    Jesus Quintero

  19. I am deeply saddened by this news and at a loss for words.
    Wishing Jan strength and love.

  20. The Dust Blows Forward..and the Dust Blows Back…We will miss you but never forget RIP…

  21. He pushed through so many barriers. So much fun the conviviality with other fans. Saw the Bat Chain band at a bar in Minneapolis. Up close and personal. An eternal memory.

    Say HI to the big eyed beans from Venus.

  22. thanks for the sounds
    thanks for the sights
    thanks for the thoughts
    you'll always be in them

  23. This is a deep sense of loss. This is a sore wound. Don, we love you

    Rest In Peace

  24. you're one of my heroes in music, oh man you'll live forever in my heart, thanks for all the sounds,
    alfred in France

  25. A Black Swan lies down on all colored Lilly pads

  26. You hardly know a day goes by in the cardboard cutout sundown. RIP Don, you will be missed dearly.

  27. My genius is gone.Never forget and thank you Captain.

  28. I'll Never forget you. Paris 1974. RIP.Tom

  29. The fallin' ditch may have gotten his bones…but his music, never. Farewell and hail.

  30. Möge er in frieden ruhen. Es gibt einen Platz im Rock 'n' Roll Himmel für ihn, da bin ich sicher. Der Käpt'n hat auch hier in Deutschland treue Fans 'n' Followers. Seine einzigartige Stimme wird mir ewig im Gedächnis bleiben.

    Saddened Lasse S. aus Hannover, Deutschland

  31. Thankyou Don for the inspiration you gave us all. Love to Jan

  32. Toda una inspiración. Insustituible.
    Atom Rhumba.

  33. I am in complete and total shock. I was at a work Christmas party last night when my girlfriend rung me and told me. I actually started crying. It was a very strange moment. Don has been such a major influence on me, not just through my music, but in my life too, as i'm sure he has with all of us. My thoughts go out to Jan and other family and friends.
    I now plan to make my way through each album this weekend.
    Sleep well, Donnie.

    Erik Steaggles

  34. RIP, such a big influence in my life. Mike Moroz in UK

  35. Tru a friend of mine some 30 years ago I was intruced to his music, and it was quite shock. He let me tape on a cassette one of his albums he when he came to see me and play his ltest acquiries. Klaas is the name of this beloved friend lives stillin Rotterdam, Netherlands, I moved to Flanders in Belgium. I love Zappa music and also his friend Captain Beefhart, he was born at the sam year like me, sorry that he had go away from us.

  36. Rest in peace, fast and bulbous. You inspired generations, with more yet to feast on your legacy.

  37. Saw you in London with the late John Peel.

    What talent!

  38. Sad news. RIP Captain. Been listening to your music for over 40 years and will continue to do so.

  39. Bye Bye

    Thanxs for the magic of your art!

  40. I've been listening to you all year, and I didn't even really know why I had everything you've ever touched in my DVD player, my iTunes, my truck's CD player, and on my iPod. My girlfriend didn't really get you. My parents didn't really get you. My peers didn't really get you. I feel so bad for them that they likely won't ever get to experience the pure joy that is listening to your aural creations.

    You ARE a STAR shining FOREVER, DON.

    Forever and ever and ever. Amen.

    Fast and bulbous!


    I. M. Strange

    *<————— !

  41. My deepest condolences to his family. Don's demise is a great lost to the industry and the nation.
    Rest in Peace, Don.

  42. Bereft and lost. We have lost a true genius, artist, musician, singer, poet. The two times I was able to see him perform with The Magic Band changed my life, my artistic perception, attunement and sensibilities. The Magic Band on their own too playing the music they clearly loved was extraordinary and stand as a great tribute to a great great man. I cannot express what sadness it brings to hear of his passing and my thoughts go out to his lovely wife Jan. I enjoyed and appreciate ALL of Don's work whether aural (ALL of it) or in two dimensional form the wondrous paintings and drawings of later years. All a wonderment and truly truly inspired and touched by the great muse. Sad also to hear of his long struggle against MS and trust at last Don, you are no longer in any pain. Peace, music, art, poetry, love of the natural world, whalesong and music
    Andy Swapp

  43. Thank You Captain for the music that You gave us. There will always be a place in my heart for you.

  44. To Jan and distant cousins everywhere.

    Love Over Gold.

  45. Dear Don,…'ll live on in every note we'll play.
    Thank you for guiding our band !!!

    Vannut Padje

  46. When you first came round I was sad,
    My head hung down I felt really bad,
    Now I'm glad, glad about the good times that we've had

    RIP Don

  47. Piece of me died with him
    World will never be the same

    thanks don
    will treasure your music

    Patrick Wauters, Belgium

  48. Don van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart was truly an inspiration, his "Opaque melodies that bug most people" forever changed the way I thought about music.I constantly played My fave albums,Mirror Man,Strictly Personal and Safe as Milk and his brilliant Blues harp playing made time stand still. We'll miss you Captain but your legacy will live on in your Music and your artwork and in our hearts.

  49. a true genius love his answer when asked to support u2 who is this bongo guy anyway it takes real class to jack it in when you know you have nothing left to achieve.may he rest in peace

  50. I never met the guy, but his music and art were both huge inspirations on me. Words can't express just how much he'll be missed by all of us who think outside the box. Rest in peace, good Captain. The pain is over.

  51. Sail on Captain – thank you for sharing your music with us. We made it to one of your concerts and it was one of the best. We still talk about it. God be with you and your family. Dottie and John

  52. Good Night Captain My Captain…

  53. smooth sailing Captian…


  55. The Captain is gone who will sail the mothership?

    RIP the good Captain, Inspirational and never to be forgotten. Love to you and those you leave behind, the world is a darker place without you, grow fins and go back into the water again x

  56. Been a CB fan since 1971 when I took a copy of Trout Mask Replica out of the local library, whose director was extremely hip! Turned my brain to jelly. Don't think it's ever re-solidified!

    Rest in pace, Captain. I'm sorry you had to go this way, and just shy of your 70th birthday. (I know Frank'll be glad to finally see you)

  57. Gutted. I knew he had been ill for some time but still, the world is a poorer and less wondrous place for his passing.

  58. I wasn't exactly popular with friends for liking the great Captain Beefheart, but he was truly a HUGE influence on me in every way. He taught me how to listen to music in a different way. You will never die, Captain. The Fallin' Ditch Will Never Get Your Bones.

    Eric Hemphill
    Fan since 1979

  59. In "Willie the Shake", Lord Buckley stated, "The bad jazz that a cat blows wails long after…" Let me paraphrase: THE GREAT JAZZ THAT THE CAPTAIN BLEW NOW WAILS FOREVER. Windowa to the soul: He looked at me once with those piercing blues- when the sky was one inch from my soul. Man is gone- only art remains. So go we all. No goodbye, Captain. I'm sure I'll see you soon- but next time neithe of us will have eyes.

  60. Chinapig55 sez:

    Vliet is dood, de captain leeft voort.

    Dank u, Don!

  61. Thank you for the music, Don, you brought light to so many, many lives…my thoughts and condolences to Jan and his friends and all of us, too, the fans who are touched deeply within our souls by the Captain's amazing creations.

    "…'Til I have to go
    And sow my last sweet potattahh!!!"

  62. R.I.P. Captain.
    Apply for the second coming gig. I've heard no one else wants it. I also heard that Jesus said, "I love Don, Don would be great….., he has a great voice for sermons."

  63. A truly sad day for music, one of the all time greats gone.

    I was so shocked (and still am) when I read the news.

    My favourite artist/musician of all time and that happened as soon as I heard his music some years ago. Theres nothing else like Captain Beefheart.

    R.I.P. Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart

  64. I was devastated to hear the news. I first encountered Don’s music when, as a teenager, I tuned into John Peel’s Sounds of the 70′s late one night and heard him play Mirror Man which, on headphones, just blew me away. I went straight out and bought the Strictly Personal album and have never looked back.
    His music has been a major part of my life. Thanks for everything Don. Today I feel I’ve lost a friend.

  65. …and the lantern flared, and the caboose waved a green gone on………
    Don, thank you so much for setting free a young musician so many years ago.

  66. Rest in peace Don. I'll never forget the thrill I had at young age when listening to your music for the first time. It never left me since.
    Koen Streefkerk, Netherlands

  67. Last of the great genius Heroes !

    Farewell Don

  68. Oh Captain, my captain; our fearful trip is done.

  69. Goodnight Captain. You have influenced me more than you will ever know and so many more im sure. R.I.P to a true visionary and a true original. xx

  70. Thank you Captain. You opened my eyes and ears to so much that has filled my life.
    My sincere condolences to Jan and the Van Vliet family.

  71. I don't even have words to express the loss. My girlfriend told me a few years back I should try to write you or get in touch with you somehow Don, even if just to thank you for inspiring me, but I didn't and now it's too late and I'll always regret it. You and Zappa were a revelation to me. You both changed the way I listened to music. Zappa's music spoke to my head, yours spoke to my heart. The world will never be the same without you. Your smile is stuck, you cannot come back to our Frownland.

    Long live Captain Beefheart. "If you got ears, you gotta listen …"

  72. I dropped the needle onto 'Decals, saw the red underware arm, got on board and rode the train.

    A tin teardrop for you, my Captain,


    Steve, UK

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