Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, who has died aged 69 of complications from multiple sclerosis, was one of the most influential American musicians of the 1960s and 1970s. His status was always cult rather than commercial, and for most of his career he was broke.
Yet he remained a hero to most of the musical avant garde: the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and the Mothers of Invention in America; Roxy Music, Hawkwind, Jethro Tull, Family and Edgar Broughton in Britain. He was one of John Peel’s favourite artists, and the DJ did much to promote Beefheart by playing his records when no other radio programme would touch them.
It was Beefheart’s stubborn refusal to conform that invariably lost him the big bucks. And he was not indifferent to money. He loved fast cars and owned variously a Hudson, Corvette and Jaguar, drank brandy alexanders, and always wore the best shoes he could afford.