RIP: Captain Beefheart, visionary (LOUIE of the Week)

Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart by J.R. Williams

Last week, we lost a true visionary with the death of Don Van Vliet, the man also known as Captain Beefheart. Ironically, my last posting in this blog was about his old high school buddy, Frank Zappa, who died 17 years ago.

My friend Theo de Grood of The Louie Louie Pages wrote a tribute to Mr. Van Vliet:

Truly the most visionary man in the last 100 years of American music. A nightmare to many (including most of his band members) and probably mad as a hatter but if you can listen throught the chaotic surface there’s a surprise in almost every note he recorded. For me he was of the greatest importance, he taught me a new way to listen and watch, which delivered me lost of joy throughout the years. I could write pages about him but keep it short now: listening is the best way to remember this great uncut diamond.

May he drive them nuts up there.

Over at the Wikipedia page on Captain Beefheart, there’s some great quotes on this visionary artist:

One of the four or five unqualified geniuses to rise from the hothouses of American music in the Sixties.” – Lester Bangs

If there has ever been such a thing as a genius in the history of popular music, it’s Beefheart… I heard echoes of his music in some of the records I listened to last week and I’ll hear more echoes in records that I listen to this week.” – John Peel

Once you’ve heard Beefheart, it’s hard to wash him out of your clothes. It stains, like coffee or blood.” – Tom Waits

There actually is a LOUIE LOUIE connection with Captain Beefheart. If you listen to the Bongo Fury album, Beefheart’s collaboration with Frank Zappa, you can hear a definite LOUIE LOUIE groove in the track ‘Sam With The Showing Scalp Flat Top.’

On YouTube, you can hear this particular track as part of a generic video clip.

To celebrate Beefheart’s legacy, this song shall be recognized as the LOUIE of the Week.

In 1997, the BBC produced a documentary on Captain Beefheart, “The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart,” which was narrated by John Peel. Thanks to the crafty archivists inhabiting the YouTube community, you can see this documentary, which has been broken up into six parts.

Here’s the part one…

Just so you know, the illustration on the top of this post is by J.R. Williams, a friend of mine has done some remarkable work over the years. One particular project he did that I really loved was “The Legend of Wild Man Fischer,” an excellent graphic novel / biography of the legendary musician, created in conjunction with Dennis P. Eichhorn (another guy I’ve interviewed for the LOUIE documentary project). If you like J.R.’s work, you can buy some of his comic books, prints, and even original artwork. Visit his webpage at:

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