Frank Zappa


Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American composer, electric guitarist, record producer and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote rock, jazz, electronic, orchestral, and musique concrète works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist.

In his teens, he acquired a taste for percussion-based avant-garde composers like Edgard Varèse and 1950s rhythm and blues music. He began writing classical music in high school, while at the same time playing drums in rhythm and blues bands—he later switched to electric guitar. He was a self-taught composer and performer and his diverse musical influences led him to create music that was often impossible to categorize. His 1966 debut album with the Mothers of Invention, Freak Out!, combined songs in conventional rock and roll format with collective improvisations and studio-generated sound collages. His later albums shared this eclectic and experimental approach, irrespective of whether the fundamental format was one of rock, jazz or classical. He wrote the lyrics to all his songs, which often humorously reflected his iconoclastic view of established political processes, structures and movements. He was a strident critic of mainstream education and organized religion, and a forthright and passionate advocate for freedom of speech and the abolition of censorship.

Zappa was a highly productive and prolific artist and he gained widespread critical acclaim. Many of his albums are considered essential in rock history, and he is regarded as one of the most original guitarists and composers of his time; he remains a major influence on musicians and composers. He had some commercial success, particularly in Europe, and for most of his career was able to work as an independent artist. Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

Zappa was married to Kathryn J. "Kay" Sherman from 1960 to 1964, and in 1967 he married Adelaide Gail Sloatman, with whom he remained until his death from prostate cancer in 1993. They had four children: Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen. Gail Zappa manages the businesses of her late husband under the name the Zappa Family Trust.

Zappa earned widespread critical acclaim in his lifetime and after his death. The 2004 Rolling Stone Album Guide writes: "Frank Zappa dabbled in virtually all kinds of music—and, whether guised as a satirical rocker, jazz-rock fusionist, guitar virtuoso, electronics wizard, or orchestral innovator, his eccentric genius was undeniable". Even though his work found inspiration from many different genres, Zappa was seen establishing a coherent and personal expression. In 1971, biographer David Walley noted that "The whole structure of his music is unified, not neatly divided by dates or time sequences and it is all building into a composite". On commenting on Zappa's music, politics and philosophy, Barry Miles noted in 2004 that they cannot be separated: "It was all one; all part of his 'conceptual continuity'".

Guitar Player Magazine devoted a special issue to Zappa in 1992, and asked on the cover "Is FZ America's Best Kept Musical Secret?" Editor Don Menn remarked that the issue was about "The most important composer to come out of modern popular music". Among those contributing to the issue was composer and musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky, who conducted premiere performances of works of Ives and Varèse in the 1930s. He became friends with Zappa in the 1980s, and said "I admire everything Frank does, because he practically created the new musical millennium. He does beautiful, beautiful work ... It has been my luck to have lived to see the emergence of this totally new type of music." Conductor Kent Nagano remarked in the same issue that "Frank is a genius. That's a word I don't use often ... In Frank's case it is not too strong ... He is extremely literate musically. I'm not sure if the general public knows that". Pierre Boulez stated in Musician Magazine's posthumous Zappa tribute article that Zappa "was an exceptional figure because he was part of the worlds of rock and classical music and that both types of his work would survive." Many music scholars acknowledge Zappa as one of the most influential composers of his generation. As an electric guitarist, he has become highly regarded.

In 1994, jazz magazine Down Beat's critics poll placed Zappa in its Hall of Fame. Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. There, it was written that "Frank Zappa was rock and roll's sharpest musical mind and most astute social critic. He was the most prolific composer of his age, and he bridged genres—rock, jazz, classical, avant-garde and even novelty music—with masterful ease". He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. In 2005, the US National Recording Preservation Board included We're Only in It for the Money in the National Recording Registry as "Frank Zappa's inventive and iconoclastic album presents a unique political stance, both anti-conservative and anti-counterculture, and features a scathing satire on hippiedom and America's reactions to it". The same year, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him 71 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

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Frank Zappa links


Weirdomusic Review: Frank Zappa - Joe's Menage
Weirdomusic Review: Frank Zappa - One Shot Deal
Buy Frank Zappa CDs at Amazon.com
Zappa.com
United Mutations
Kill Ugly Radio
The Idiot Bastard Son
Frank Zappa @ Wikipedia
Dutch Zappa Weblog

Bookmark

Frank Zappa - 200 Motels

Frank Zappa - The Man From Utopia

Frank Zappa - Chunga's Revenge

Frank Zappa - Studio Tan

Frank Zappa - Cruising With Ruben & The Jets

Frank Zappa - Hot Rats

Frank Zappa - Lumpy Gravy