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Don Van Vliet (/væn ˈvliːt/, born Don Glen Vliet; January 15, 1941 – December 17, 2010) was an American musician, singer-songwriter and artist best known by the stage name Captain Beefheart. His musical work was conducted with a rotating ensemble of musicians called the Magic Band (1965–1982), with whom he recorded 13 studio albums. Noted for his powerful singing voice with its wide range, Van Vliet also played the harmonica, saxophone and numerous other wind instruments. His music blended rock, blues and psychedelia with avant-garde and contemporary experimental composition. Beefheart was also known for exercising an almost dictatorial control over his supporting musicians, and for often constructing myths about his life.

During his teen years in Lancaster, California, Van Vliet developed an eclectic musical taste and formed "a mutually useful but volatile" friendship with Frank Zappa, with whom he sporadically competed and collaborated. He began performing with his Captain Beefheart persona in 1964 and joined the original Magic Band line-up, initiated by Alexis Snouffer, in 1965. The group drew attention with their cover of Bo Diddley's "Diddy Wah Diddy", which became a regional hit. It was followed by their acclaimed debut album Safe as Milk, released in 1967 on Buddah Records. After being dropped by two consecutive record labels, they signed to Zappa's Straight Records. As producer, Zappa granted Beefheart unrestrained artistic freedom in making 1969's Trout Mask Replica, which ranked 58th in Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 1974, frustrated by lack of commercial success, he released two albums of more conventional rock music that were critically panned; this move, combined with not having been paid for a European tour, and years of enduring Beefheart's abusive behavior, led the entire band to quit. Beefheart eventually formed a new Magic Band with a group of younger musicians and regained contemporary approval through three final albums: Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (1978), Doc at the Radar Station (1980) and Ice Cream for Crow (1982).

Van Vliet has been described as "...one of modern music's true innovators" with "...a singular body of work virtually unrivalled in its daring and fluid creativity." Although he achieved little commercial or mainstream critical success, he sustained a cult following as a "highly significant" and "incalculable" influence on an array of new wave, punk, post-punk, experimental and alternative rock musicians. Known for his enigmatic personality and relationship with the public, Van Vliet made few public appearances after his retirement from music in 1982. He pursued a career in art, an interest that originated in his childhood talent for sculpture, and a venture which proved to be his most financially secure. His expressionist paintings and drawings command high prices, and have been exhibited in art galleries and museums across the world. Van Vliet died in 2010, having suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years.

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Discography

Album

Year Title Artist Rating Releases
1967 Safe as Milk Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 4.5 9
1968 Strictly Personal Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 2
1969 Trout Mask Replica Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 4.2 5
1970 Lick My Decals Off, Baby Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 4 3
1971 Mirror Man Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 4 3
1972 Clear Spot Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 4.35 2
1974 Unconditionally Guaranteed Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 2
1974 Bluejeans & Moonbeams Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 5
1978 Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 5 5
1980 Doc at the Radar Station Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 5 5
1982 Ice Cream for Crow Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 5 4
1985 Top Secret Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
1990 The Spotlight Kid / Clear Spot Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 4 1
2003 Hot Head - Introduction... Captain Beefheart (The Liberty and Virgin Recordings) Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
2005 Prime Quality Beef Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
2009 Dichotomy Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
2009 The Spotlight Kid, Outtakes 1971-1972 Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist Rating Releases
1993 A Carrot Is as Close as a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond Compilation Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 3
1998 Electricity Compilation Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 2
1999 Grow Fins: Rarities (1965-1982) Compilation Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
1999 The Mirror Man Sessions Compilation Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
2006 The Buddah Years Compilation Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band 1
At His Best Compilation Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
I May Be Hungry but I Sure Ain't Weird Compilation Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
The Best Of Compilation Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
The Best of the Virgin & Liberty Years Compilation Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
The Dust Blows Forward Compilation Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1

Album + Live

Year Title Artist Rating Releases
1978 Live at My Father's Place Live Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 2
1987 Don's Birthday Party Live Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 2
2000 I'm Going to Do What I Wanna Do (live at My Fathers Place 1978) Live Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
2001 London 1974 Live Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 2
2003 Railroadism: Live in the USA 72-81 Live Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
2003 Nan True's Hole Tapes, Volume 2 Live Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
2004 Live 'n' Rare Live Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
2006 Amsterdam '80 Live Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
2008 CB & MB in GB Live Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1
Magnetic Hands: Live in the UK 72-80 Live Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1

Single

Year Title Artist Rating Releases
1965 Diddy Wah Diddy / Who Do You Think You're Fooling Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 2
2012 Moonchild / Frying Pan Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 1

EP

Year Title Artist Rating Releases
1993 The Legendary A&M Sessions Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band 5 1

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