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Captain Beefheart
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Pioneering musician Captain Beefheart dies at 69

Steve Pond

Don Van Vliet, the pioneering and adventurous musician and artist who went by the name of Captain Beefheart and created such influential but unhinged albums as "Trout Mask Replica" and "Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller)," has died at the age of 69, reportedly of complications from multiple sclerosis.

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Captain Beefheart's music was a surreal, wildly experimental and often purposefully chaotic blend of rock, blues, jazz and psychedelia. The album considered his magnum opus, 1969's "Trout Mask Replica," was ranked 58th on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

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Van Vliet was born in Glendale, Calif., and was an avid painter and sculptor as a child. He became friends with Frank Zappa while in high school, and collaborations with Zappa helped launch a musical career that lasted until the early 1980s, when he largely abandoned music to concentrate on a well-received career as a visual artist.

He had made few public appearances over the past two decades, living quietly in small towns in California. According to Entertainment Weekly, Van Vliet died at a hospital in Northern California on Friday morning.

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