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Gerry Rafferty and Captain Beefheart
24 January 2011
Within the space of a month over Christmas 2010 two brilliant and influential musicians died.  Most people will know the famous haunting saxophone riff from Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street.  An iconic sound in its own right.  If ever there were such things as music bites this has to be in the top ten of all time.  Captain Beefheart is perhaps less well known but an incredible avant-garde creative genius.  Most famous for his Magic Band and songs like Moonlight On Vermont from the album Trout Mask ReplicaTrout Mask Replica and the eponymous Lick My Decals Off Baby.
Gerry Rafferty was born Gerald Rafferty on 16 April 1947 in Paisley near Glasgow.  He was the son of a abusive drunken Irish miner who was not too pleasant and mercifully died when Gerry was 16.  Gerry started his career in music with another famous Glaswegian, Billy Connolly, in a group called the Humblebums.  Not much came of that venture and it was in 1972 that his new band Stealers Wheel released Stuck in the Middle With You which sold over a million copies.  In 1978, with a new album called City to City, he released the mega hit Baker StreetBaker Street which sold over 5 million copies and was still netting him £80,000 a year in royalties when he died.  Unfortunately Gerry was a troubled soul and steadily declined into severe alcoholism.  A victim in my view of the abusive treatment by his father he became more and more recluse, more and more drunk, more and more violent and eventually died on 4 January 2011 at age 63 probably as a result of the alcoholism.  Life is full of ruddy tragedies but it is still amazing what one human can do in spite of it all.
Captain Beefheart was born Don Van Vliet on 15 January 1941 in Lancaster, California.  Between 1965 and 1982 he created over 20 albums of the most influential and avant-garde material.  Although Beefheart's cult following and influence are remarkable and powerful it is a sad fact that he never seemed to make much money from his music.  His lifetime friend (and enemy) Frank Zappa made several attempts to help him with his career and with some success.  In 1979, backed by Zappa, Beefheart locked the Magic Band in a house for eight months and meticulously wrote, developed and rehearsed Trout Mask ReplicaTrout Mask Replica which they recorded in the sound studio in only four and a half hours.  Trout Mask Replica, with one of rocks immortal lines "A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag is fast and bulbous", has become one of the most influential records of all time but Don Van Vliet retired from music in 1982 suffering from multiple sclerosis and returned to the desert of his early years to paint and sculpt.  He became a well recognised and highly prized visual artist before his death from complications at age 69 on 17 December 2010.

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