People Who Died, Circa 2010

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Jay Reatard, gone but not forgotten.
It is depressing but accurate to note how inexorably the internet bends toward death, and how much of the work of professional critics these days is announcing it, verifying it, and making sense of it (often in that order, unfortunately). Michael Jackson, as in so many other things, proved prophetic in this regard; as we wrote last year, "the TMZ-led, wall-to-wall coverage of Jackson's last hours proved to be an augur of what, by August, was being dubbed the 'Summer of Death'--a phenomenon abetted if not entirely created by the ascendance of Twitter, where user avatars tinted green in solidarity with Iran's dissenters solemnly announced the passing of everyone from David Carradine to DJ AM to Gidget the Chihuahua." That's as true as it ever was. But it also bears remembering at the end of the year--work aside--how many of our best that we've lost. Sometimes it's easy to forget, but let's not. A brief roll call:

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Captain Beefheart: A Beginner's Guide

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Don't buy this first
Don Van Vliet, a/k/a Captain Beefheart, died on Friday, reportedly of complications from a decades-long battle with multiple sclerosis. He was 69. Long a cult hero, with a critical fan base rivaling that of Lou Reed or the Fall's Mark E. Smith, he was naturally (and deservedly) lionized in the music press all weekend. Here, for those of you not currently steeped in Beefheartmania, is a beginner's guide to his music.

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Don Van Vliet, a/k/a Captain Beefheart, RIP

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Terrible news: Don Van Vliet, the stupendous avant-garde bluesman, surrealist painter, and world-class eccentric, has died, as confirmed to multiple outlets by a rep from the Michael Werner Gallery, which often showed his work. He would've turned 70 in January. The engine behind unclassifiable and inimitable critic-beloved masterpieces like 1969's Trout Mask Replica and 1978's Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), the California native has been personally mostly off the grid for decades, content to tend to his painting in relative seclusion while his former cohort Gary Lucas toured the world spreading the Beefheart gospel himself. Hopefully he keeps doing it.

In that awful interval when someone dies and you immediately leap to YouTube and immerse yourself in that person's work for the next several hours, often the most oddly cheering and wildly entertaining clip you can find is that person being interviewed by David Letterman. And so it goes with Beefheart, who we find here explaining to Dave how a member of his band acquired the name Richard "Midnight Hat Size" Snyder. There was no one on earth remotely like him. We were lucky to have even the one.

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