The Captain is Dead, Long Live the Captain
reposted from Now This Sound Is Brave:
I’ll admit that it was only very recently that I began getting into the music of Captain Beefheart (a.k.a Don Van Vliet) and his Magic Band after realizing how many of the musicians I love have been influenced by it. Everyone from Greg Dulli to Joe Strummer to, well, practically everyone I’ve ever listened to and really enjoyed. The prize for most Beefheart tributes paid by one band may well go to the Black Keys who have covered four of Beefheart’s songs, including Beefheart’s own cover of “Grown So Ugly” (as discussed in this post.)
Van Vliet passed away Friday morning, at the age of 69, due to complications from Multiple Sclerosis. For me, it feels fitting to pay my tribute to the influential and singular giant by way of the band who made me most familiar with his work before I began delving into the source itself. So here are the rest of those Black Keys covers along with the Beefheart originals.
“Her Eyes are a Blue Million Miles” is a touching song from an artist who was better known for freaking people out. Here’s a live rendition from 1978.
Then the Keys turned it into a freakout of their own.
“Here I Am, Here I Always Am” was one of Beefheart’s classic blues-inflected stompers.
So it seems tailor-made for the Keys in retrospect.
“Blue Million Miles” was not Beefheart’s only foray into love songs, of course, and just as touching was his song “I’m Glad”. (This version is a demo from 1966, and it’s much more affecting without the doo-wop backing vocals of the final version on Safe As Milk.)
“Glad” may be the best of the Black Keys’ Beefheart covers with the emotional power of Dan Auerbach’s vocals being on par with Beefheart’s own rugged delivery.
I have other Beefheart favorites that stray farther away from Beefheart’s blues roots toward his experimental apex, but “I’m Glad” seems like the most fitting way to send the Captain out.