For many, Captain Beefheart’s music is almost impossible to describe. But Kristine [McKenna] can.
“A startling synthesis of free jazz, delta blues, and tin pan alley, his music was rooted in an elastic approach to composing that allowed him to combine rural folk tales, voodoo incantations, and anthropological fantasy with a spectrum of sound that stretched from Charles Ives and Stravinsky to the natural sounds of the universe.
His music was built around incredibly complex time signatures, and he had a five-octave vocal range that allowed him to slip into different characterizations as he ruminated on his pet themes: the wonderfulness of women, man’s stunning stupidity and spiritual sloth, and the splendor of every damn thing in the universe from Haley’s Comet to a rusty nail.”
It may sound like a glorious genius, free-wheeling mess. But Don Van Vliet was exacting. “It was… tough to be in his band,” Kristine says.
Over the course of their long friendship, Kristine recorded hours of conversations with Don. And she began to see his genius, and what she calls his “unshackled mind.”