Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, was a unique US rock artist

American musician and painter Don Van Vliet, best known by the stage name Captain Beefheart, has died aged 69.

His death in California, from complications from multiple sclerosis, was announced by the Michael Werner Gallery in New York.

Van Vliet was "one of the most original recording artists of his time", the gallery said in a statement. He rose to fame in the 1960s with a unique style of blues-inspired rock 'n' roll, later devoting himself to art. Musicians including Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Franz Ferdinand, Oasis, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The White Stripes are among those who have cited him as an influence.

"Don Van Vliet was a complex and influential figure in the visual and performing arts," the gallery said in a statement. "He is perhaps best known as the incomparable Captain Beefheart who, together with his Magic Band, rose to prominence in the 1960s with a totally unique style of blues-inspired, experimental rock 'n' roll. This would ultimately secure Van Vliet's place in music history as one of the most original recording artists of his time. After two decades in the spotlight as an avant-garde composer and performer, Van Vliet retired from performing to devote himself wholeheartedly to painting and drawing. Like his music, Van Vliet's lush paintings are the product of a truly rare and unique vision."

Van Vliet combined peculiar tones with music that drew on blues, jazz, psychedelia and other genres. He recorded as Captain Beefheart with members of the Magic Band until 1982. His first two releases with the Magic Band received positive reviews but did not connect with the wider public. But he soon began a creative relationship with Frank Zappa, a former high school classmate, who helped him forge his way towards redefining popular music. Trout Mask Replica (pictured) is considered his masterpiece.

A painting by Van Vliet was on sale at the Michael Werner Gallery this month at a price of $40,000.

Van Vliet is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, Jan Van Vliet.