American rocker and painter Captain Beefheart has died at the age of 69. The star passed away on Friday, December 17, according to a representative for the Michael Werner Gallery in New York. His exact cause of death was unknown, although he had long been suffering from multiple sclerosis.Born Don Van Vliet, the singer rose to fame in the 1960s with his own style of blues and rock, later influencing artists such as Tom Waits, Nick Cave and Red Hot Chili Peppers. He recorded under the moniker Captain Beefheart with his pals in the Magic Band until 1982, before gradually moving away from the music industry and focusing his efforts on his love of art.
He was a successful painter and drawer, and one picture by Vliet sold for $40,000 at the Michael Werner Gallery earlier this month. Paying tribute to the artist, a statement issued by the gallery reads, "Don Van Vliet was a complex and influential figure in the visual and performing arts.
"He is perhaps best known as the incomparable Captain Beefheart who, together with his Magic Band, rose to prominence in the 1960s with a totally unique style of blues-inspired, experimental rock & roll. This would ultimately secure Van Vliet's place in music history as one of the most original recording artists of his time. After two decades in the spotlight as an avant-garde composer and performer, Van Vliet retired from performing to devote himself wholeheartedly to painting and drawing."
"Like his music, Van Vliet's lush paintings are the product of a truly rare and unique vision."