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Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa

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Also Known As: Frank Vincent Zappa Died: December 4, 1993
Born: December 21, 1940 Cause of Death: prostate cancer
Birth Place: Baltimore, Maryland, USA Profession: composer, guitarist, singer, film producer, screenwriter, actor, film director, documentarian, writer, activist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

h rapidly deteriorated. Though he continued recording, and even conducted his modern classical music with the Berlin-based Ensemble Modern, Zappa was often too ill to work.Zappa managed to complete one more album, Civilization Phase III (1994), before dying on Dec. 4, 1993, surrounded by his wife, Gail, and their children Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva. He was 52 years old and left behind a legacy that grew with each new generation. Not only was he hailed as one of the best rock guitarists, but he was also praised by historians as one of the most important and influential modern composers. Zappaâ¿¿s music influenced countless bands and artists, from heavy metal acts like Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath to jam-based bands like Phish and George Clinton to jazz musicians like John Zorn and Bill Frisell. Even The Beatlesâ¿¿ Sgt. Pepperâ¿¿s Lonely Hearts Club Band was, according to Paul McCartney, partly influenced by The Mothers of Inventionâ¿¿s debut album, Freak Out!. Meanwhile, his son Dweezil Zappa â¿¿ an excellent guitar player in his own right â¿¿ carried the Zappa mantel with the "Zappa Plays Zappa" tribute band that began touring in 2006 and playing his fatherâ¿¿s rock-oriented work.By Shawn...

h rapidly deteriorated. Though he continued recording, and even conducted his modern classical music with the Berlin-based Ensemble Modern, Zappa was often too ill to work.

Zappa managed to complete one more album, Civilization Phase III (1994), before dying on Dec. 4, 1993, surrounded by his wife, Gail, and their children Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva. He was 52 years old and left behind a legacy that grew with each new generation. Not only was he hailed as one of the best rock guitarists, but he was also praised by historians as one of the most important and influential modern composers. Zappaâ¿¿s music influenced countless bands and artists, from heavy metal acts like Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath to jam-based bands like Phish and George Clinton to jazz musicians like John Zorn and Bill Frisell. Even The Beatlesâ¿¿ Sgt. Pepperâ¿¿s Lonely Hearts Club Band was, according to Paul McCartney, partly influenced by The Mothers of Inventionâ¿¿s debut album, Freak Out!. Meanwhile, his son Dweezil Zappa â¿¿ an excellent guitar player in his own right â¿¿ carried the Zappa mantel with the "Zappa Plays Zappa" tribute band that began touring in 2006 and playing his fatherâ¿¿s rock-oriented work.

By Shawn Dwyeration (1973), which contained such concert staples "Dinah-Moe Humm," "Dirty Love" and "Montana."

Zappa had the biggest commercial success of his career with 1974⿿s Apostrophe (⿿), which reached No. 10 on the Billboard Top 200, and featured the successful single, "Don⿿t Eat the Yellow Snow," as well as concert favorites "Cosmik Debris," "Uncle Remus" and "Stink-Foot." By this time, Zappa played with an ever-revolving group of musicians who nonetheless performed under the Mothers moniker. After the live album Roxy & Elsewhere (1974), Zappa recorded One Size Fits All (1975), the last studio album made under the Mothers banner. He briefly reunited with Captain Beefheart for a tour, and released another live record, Bongo Fury (1975), which ended with concert staple, "Muffin Man," a high-energy pseudo-heavy metal song that contained a long, searing guitar solo that represented some of Zappa⿿s finest playing. In 1976, Zappa permanently dropped the Mothers of Invention, and began recording and performing under his own name. Meanwhile, he filed a lawsuit against former manager, Herb Cohen, whom he accused of skimming money from DiscReet Records. Cohen countersued, which froze money the pair made previously and forced Zappa into a contract with Warner Bros. He released Zoot Allures (1976) with Warner, but ran into further legal trouble when filed suit against the label after they refused to release his expansive four-LP effort, Läther.

Because of the lawsuits he dealt with in the late-1970s, Zappa took more to the road in order to earn a living. Joined by musicians like bassist Patrick Oâ¿¿Hearn, guitarist Adrian Belew, drummer Terry Bozzio, and keyboardist Tommy Mars, Zappa embarked on some of the finest concerts he had ever performed, and resulted in a classic Halloween concert at New Yorkâ¿¿s Palladium Theater in 1977. Footage from the event was part of Zappaâ¿¿s own directing effort, "Baby Snakes" (1979), which also displayed his odd brand of humor in the form of stop-motion animation sequences designed by Bruce Bickford. He was eventually able to resume recording under his new label, Zappa Records, which debuted with one of his best-selling albums, Sheik Yerbouti (1979), a four-LP set that featured the European hit "Bobby Brown Goes Down," the Grammy-nominated "Dancing Fool" and "Jewish Princess," which raised the ire of the Anti-Defamation League for alleged anti-Semetic lyrics, an accusation Zappa vehemently denied. In fact, he fired back at the ADL for trying to use his song to gain publicity â¿¿ a precursor to the censorship fight he would engage in during the 1980s.

Zappa went on to record another classic album, Joeâ¿¿s Garage (1979), a three-act, three-LP rock opera that satirized topics like McCarthyism, censorship, the suppression of free speech and sexual repression perpetrated by the Catholic Church. After spending most of 1980 on the road, he returned to the studio to record the punk satire Tinsel Town Rebellion (1981) and the double album, You Are What You Is (1981), which he recorded in his new home studio, the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen. Both albums contained complex instrumentals, sardonic lyrics skewering media, political and religious hypocrisy, and the obsession with wealth during the Reagan era. Also that year, he released via mail order a three-disc series, Shut Up â¿¿n Play Yer Guitar, Shut Up â¿¿n Play Yer Guitar Some More and Return of the Son of Shut Up â¿¿n Play Yer Guitar, which consisted of instrumental guitar pieces recorded live from 1977-1980. The success of the series prompted him to later release the more plainly titled Guitar (1988). He followed up with another studio album, Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch (1982), which featured his most popular single, "Valley Girl," co-written with daughter Moon Unit, who also improvised Valley girl expressions like "Gag me with a spoon" and "Fer sure" over the music. The song earned Zappa a Grammy Award nomination, but also the stigma from the non-initiated that he was merely the creator of novelty songs, rather than a complex and wide-ranging experimentalist.

For his next album, The Man from Utopia (1983), Zappa steered away from his previous conceptual work in favor of a more song-based record. Returning to his classical routes, he recorded London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1 (1983), which featured four of his pieces conducted by Kent Nagano with the London Symphony Orchestra. A second recording, London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 2, was released in 1987. Meanwhile, Zappa found himself in the political spotlight when he emerged as a staunch defender of free speech in pop music during the ire raised over obscene song lyrics and music videos by the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), co-founded by Tipper Gore. Though he was never a direct target of the PMRC, he did testify before the Senate Commerce committee in 1985 alongside John Denver and Twisted Sisterâ¿¿s Dee Snider as an opposing witness to the suggestion of albums having labels on the cover warning purchasers about content. Zappa strongly denounced the idea on first amendment grounds, comparing such an act to be censorship and like "treating dandruff by decapitation." He later appeared in a 1986 episode of "Crossfire" (CNN, 1982-2005) and debated the issue with Washington Times columnist John Lofton and hosts Robert Novak and Tom Braden. Zappa immediately took a disliking to the socially conservative Lofton and traded verbal barbs with him throughout the 20-minute segment, which later went viral on YouTube decades later.

Back to recording music, Zappa turned out his exemplary Jazz From Hell (1986), which received a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, and ironically an RIAA Parental Advisory sticker, which some speculated was due to the word "Hell" in the album title, the song "G-Spot Tornado," or his public battles with the PMRC. In 1988, Zappa performed his last rock tour in a 12-piece band that broke apart before the tour was completed. Still, he released three albums that documented the tour, Broadway the Hard Way (1988), The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life (1991), and Make a Jazz Noise Here (1991). Meanwhile, he made a visit to Czechoslovakia in 1990 at the behest of President Václav Havel, where he learned that his music was instrumental in fueling the desire for freedom among 1960s and 1970s youth trapped in a Communist regime. Zappa made one of his last performances at the "Adieu Soviet Army" concert in Prague in 1991, as he was diagnosed with incurable prostate cancer in 1990 and his healt

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
2.
  Baby Snakes (1979) Director
3.
  200 Motels (1971) Characterizations dir

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Derailroaded (2005)
2.
 Funny (1989) Musician/Composer
3.
 Baby Snakes (1979)
4.
 200 Motels (1971) Musician
5.
 Head (1968) The Critic
6.
8.
9.
 Decade (1989)
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Milestones close milestones

1950:
Moved to Lancaster in Southern California at the age of ten
:
Kicked out of high school marching band for smoking in uniform
:
Began writing and recording "B" movie scores with singer Ray Collins in the early 1960s
:
Served 10 days in jail and three years on probation after a San Bernardino cop commissioned him to record "sexual" sounds, then arrested him on pornography charges
1964:
Joined the group the Soul Giants, later renamed The Mothers
1966:
Signed a contract with Verve Records, renamed the band The Mothers of Invention
1966:
Released first record with The Mothers of Invention, "Freak Out"
1967:
Took up residence with The Mothers of Invention at the Garrick Theater in Greenwich Village, New York
1968:
Moved back to Los Angeles and started two record labels, Straight and Bizarre, distributed through Reprise Records
1968:
Signed seminal rock influences Alice Cooper and Captain Beefheart to his label
1968:
Feature acting debut, "Head"
1969:
Disbanded the Mothers of Invention
1971:
Reformed the Mothers with a new line-up
1971:
Co-wrote, directed and supplied songs for the cult feature, "200 Motels"
1977:
Filed a law suit against manager Herb Cohen and ended contract with Reprise
1979:
Formed the label Zappa Records through Mercury Records
1979:
Renamed his group Zappa, released first record with Mercury, "Sheik Yerbouti" which included the hit song "Dancing Fool", a disco parody
1979:
Starred, directed, edited and produced the surreal documentary, "Baby Snakes"
1980:
Left Mercury after their refusal to release the single "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted"
1980:
Formed independent label, Barking Pumpkin
:
Formed video production company Honkier Video
1985:
Testified before a Senate sub-committee on "porn rock"
1986:
Appeared as a drug dealer on the 80s cop show, "Miami Vice"
1989:
Wrote autobiography, "The Real Frank Zappa Book"
1989:
Wrote, directed, produced and provided music for the documentary, "The Amazing Mr. Bickford"
1990:
Served as a cultural, tourism and trade advisor to the west for Czechoslovakia under Vaclav Havel
:
Fought a long public battle with cancer
1991:
Honored with a special tribute concert series entitled "Frank Zappa's Universe", featuring classical and rock musicians performing some of his large-scale work and rock tunes
1992:
Final TV appearance on the documentary special, "Democracy in America"
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Notes

"I wrote a song about dental floss but did anyone's teeth get cleaner?"--Zappa response to the PMRC's accusation that music lyrics can cause anti-social behavior

In 1982 Zappa helped popularize Southern California slang with the hit single "Valley Girl", sung by his oldest daughter Moon Unit.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Gail Zappa. Born c. 1955; survived him.

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Moon Unit Zappa. Actor, singer. Born September 28, 1967; survived him; enjoyed Top 40 pop hit with the semi-rap song, "Valley Girl", for which her father played guitars; engaged to musician Paul Doucette.
son:
Dweezil Zappa. Actor, musician. Born September 5, 1969; survived him.
son:
Ahmet Zappa. Actor, musician. Born May 15, 1974; survived him.
son:
Ahmet Zappa. Survived him.
daughter:
Diva Zappa. Actor. Born July 20, 1979; survived him.
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Bibliography close complete biography

"The Real Frank Zappa Book"

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