The sad passing of Captain Beefheart needs to be noted here. At 15, Trout Mask Replica seized my consciousness and made my isolated life better. I never tried to make music like the Captain (that's a gift that only comes once in a century at least), but his fierce independence was always a model. Like Syd Barrett, he retreated from music early; unlike Syd he moved on to a happy successful life as a painter, with a wife who by all accounts was a true partner. At least he lived a full life before the MS got him.
Notorious as a difficult, capricious bandleader who was both unreliable and a control freak, Don Van Vliet got a lot of criticism from ex-bandmates. At the same time, his unorthodox mind and methods resulted in music like no other. He was the weird old master who abused his students yet left them with skills and insights that few ever gain. A complicated story.
Drummer, transcriber/co-arranger/musical enabler John "Drumbo" French pays tribute here. It's a moving testimonial.