Don Van Vliet, better known as pioneering blues and rock musician Captain Beefheart, has died in California from complications of multiple sclerosis at age 69, a representative for the artist said on Friday.
The Michael Werner Gallery in New York, which handles Vliet's paintings, made the announcement. "Don Van Vliet will be sorely missed," the gallery's statement said.
Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band rose to prominence during the 1960s with an experimental brand of rock music that was inspired by the blues and featured offbeat rhythms and lyrics.
Their best known album is 1969's "TroutMask Replica," and while it was not a commercial hit, it won critical acclaim and is still considered among the most prominent art-rock albums ever made.
Vliet was born Jan. 15, 1941, in Glendale, Calif. As a teenager, he befriended Frank Zappa, whose own brand of experimental music became popular in the 1960s and 1970s.
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band released their first album, "Safe as Milk," in 1967, featuring songs with titles like "Zig Zag Wanderer" and "Abba Zaba." While band members would change over the years, the group continued to crank out music through the 1970s up to 1982's "Ice Cream for Crow."
Vliet retired from music after 1982 and turned to painting, enhancing his reputation as a member of the avant-garde.
Vliet is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, Jan Van Vliet.