Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don Van Vliet 1941-2010

"I'm goin' up on the mountain and find me a cave and talk those bears into takin' me in..."
-- Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), "Wild Life" (1969)

A word on the importance of Captain Beefheart.

When I was 16, I was in a bad way: my best friend had committed suicide and my own homelife was becoming unliveable. It crossed my mind more than once that it might be more convenient for all concerned if I wasn't around anymore. Then one morning, I awoke with one clear thought in mind: "I am going to have to start listening to some f****ed-up music."

And so I began to embrace sounds I could not bring myself to embrace before. I started listening to Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, The Mothers of Invention, The Velvet Underground, The Stooges... bands that tapped into emotions that were not traditionally musical -- and I believe hearing those edgier feelings expressed musically, literally saved my life. They also opened my ears to new textures, contours and concepts of beauty.

Beefheart's music may sound crazy to some of you, but it became my refuge from something much crazier. More than any teacher I had, his work taught me to think like an artist and how to use language like paint.

I shared this life-saving confession earlier tonight with a friend, and she wrote back to me, "We should all be so lucky to say that we served such a purpose in this life."

So, thank you, Don, for being the bear on the mountain who took me in -- and godspeed.


  1. Anonymous10:46 AM

    Dear Tim,

    This is Jahsonic. One of my readers found my mystery film. I had been looking for this Italian crime film in which a member of the cinema theatre is shot by a western gun man on screen. The film is called Closed Circuit. Circuito chiuso. I'm sure you 've seen it. I believe I had asked you about the title a couple of years ago.

    I hope all is well with you. All is well with me, I'm about to publish my first book, it's called History of erotica, from caveman to Sade. It's in Dutch, but I will be looking for ways to publish it in English.

    Jan Geerinck (Jahsonic)

  2. Your post is very moving. Thank you for acknowledging the loss of this musical shaman, who will be much missed.

    Farewell, O Captain!

    Strength and honor,

    James Pagan

  3. Darryl Pickett12:59 AM

    I was twelve when Trout Mask Replica entered my life. My brother brought it home, but couldn't really take it. He was surprised when I began listening to it non-stop, memorizing and performing my favorite tracks to the bewilderment of family and friends. (Several schoolmates from years ago have contacted me out of the blue to tell me that they thought of me when they heard the news.) How great to hear what an impact this music had on your life!

  4. Beautiful post, Tim.
    Fast and bulbous!

  5. Right on, Tim. Like you, the Capt taught me to hear things that I hadn't heard before at a time in my life when I needed to hear them. If only for that reason, I'm deeply indebted to this zig-zag wanderer.


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