from wikipaedia: Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, bandleader, songwriter, composer, recording engineer, record producer, and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa composed rock, jazz, 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 The Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist. While in his teens, he acquired a taste for 20th-century classical composers such as Edgard Varèse, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern, along with 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.
Zappa was a self-taught composer and performer, and his diverse musical influences led him to create music that was often difficult 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 rock, jazz or classical. His lyrics—often humorously—reflected his iconoclastic view of established social and 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, self-education, political participation and the abolition of censorship.
He was a highly productive and prolific artist and gained widespread critical acclaim. He had some commercial success, particularly in Europe, and worked as an independent artist for most of his career. He also remains a major influence on musicians and composers. 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. In 1967, he married Adelaide Gail Sloatman, with whom he remained until his death from prostate cancer in 1993. They had four children: Moon, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 71 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", and in 2011 at No. 22 on its list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
1955–60: Youth and early careerZappa's interest in composing and arranging proliferated in his last high-school years. By his final year, he was writing, arranging and conducting avant-garde performance pieces for the school orchestra. He graduated from Antelope Valley High School in 1958, and later acknowledged two of his music teachers on the sleeve of the 1966 album Freak Out! Due to his family's frequent moves, Zappa attended at least six different high schools, and as a student he was often bored and given to distracting the rest of the class with juvenile antics. In 1959, he attended Chaffey College but left after one semester, and maintained thereafter a disdain for formal education, taking his children out of school at age 15 and refusing to pay for their college.
Zappa left home in 1959, and moved into a small apartment in Echo Park, Los Angeles. After meeting Kathryn J. "Kay" Sherman during his short period of private composition study with Prof. Karl Kohn of Pomona College, they moved in together in Ontario, and were married December 28, 1960. Zappa worked for a short period in advertising. His sojourn in the commercial world was brief, but gave him valuable insights into its workings. Throughout his career, he took a keen interest in the visual presentation of his work, designing some of his album covers and directing his own films and videos.
Early 1960s: Studio ZZappa attempted to earn a living as a musician and composer, and played different nightclub gigs, some with a new version of The Blackouts. Financially more rewarding were Zappa's earliest professional recordings, two soundtracks for the low-budget films The World's Greatest Sinner (1962) and Run Home Slow (1965). The former score was commissioned by actor-producer Timothy Carey and recorded in 1961. It contains many themes that appeared on later Zappa records. The latter soundtrack was recorded in 1963 after the film was completed, but it was commissioned by one of Zappa's former high school teachers in 1959 and Zappa may have worked on it before the film was shot. Excerpts from the soundtrack can be heard on the posthumous album The Lost Episodes (1996).
During the early 1960s, Zappa wrote and produced songs for other local artists, often working with singer-songwriter Ray Collins and producer Paul Buff. Their "Memories of El Monte" was recorded by The Penguins, although only Cleve Duncan of the original group was featured. Buff owned the small Pal Recording Studio in Cucamonga, which included a unique five-track tape recorder he had built. At that time, only a handful of the most sophisticated commercial studios had multi-track facilities; the industry standard for smaller studios was still mono or two-track. Although none of the recordings from the period achieved major commercial success, Zappa earned enough money to allow him to stage a concert of his orchestral music in 1963 and to broadcast and record it. He appeared on Steve Allen's syndicated late night show the same year, in which he played a bicycle as a musical instrument. Bringing with him a violin bow, as well as drum sticks, he proceeded to pluck, bang, and bow the spokes of the bike, producing strange, comical sounds from his new found instrument. With Captain Beefheart, Zappa recorded some songs under the name of The Soots. They were rejected by Dot Records for having "no commercial potential", a verdict Zappa subsequently quoted on the sleeve of Freak Out!
In 1964, after his marriage started to break up, he moved into the Pal studio and began routinely working 12 hours or more per day recording and experimenting with overdubbing and audio tape manipulation. This established a work pattern that endured for most of his life. Aided by his income from film composing, Zappa took over the studio from Paul Buff, who was now working with Art Laboe at Original Sound. It was renamed Studio Z. Studio Z was rarely booked for recordings by other musicians. Instead, friends moved in, notably James "Motorhead" Sherwood. Zappa started performing as guitarist with a power trio, The Muthers, in local bars in order to support himself.
An article in the local press describing Zappa as "the Movie King of Cucamonga" prompted the local police to suspect that he was making pornographic films. In March 1965, Zappa was approached by a vice squad undercover officer, and accepted an offer of $100 to produce a suggestive audio tape for an alleged stag party. Zappa and a female friend recorded a faked erotic episode. When Zappa was about to hand over the tape, he was arrested, and the police stripped the studio of all recorded material. The press was tipped off beforehand, and next day's The Daily Report wrote that "Vice Squad investigators stilled the tape recorders of a free-swinging, a-go-go film and recording studio here Friday and arrested a self-styled movie producer". Zappa was charged with "conspiracy to commit pornography". This felony charge was reduced and he was sentenced to six months in jail on a misdemeanor, with all but ten days suspended. His brief imprisonment left a permanent mark, and was central to the formation of his anti-authoritarian stance. Zappa lost several recordings made at Studio Z in the process, as the police only returned 30 out of 80 hours of tape seized. Eventually, he could no longer afford to pay the rent on the studio and was evicted. Zappa managed to recover some of his possessions before the studio was torn down in 1966.
Late 1960s: The Mothers of InventionIn 1965, Zappa was approached by Ray Collins who asked him to take over as the guitarist in local R&B band the Soul Giants, following a fight between Collins and the group's original guitarist. Zappa accepted, and soon he assumed leadership and the role as co-lead singer (even though he never considered himself a singer). He convinced the other members that they should play his music to increase the chances of getting a record contract. The band was renamed the Mothers, coincidentally on Mother's Day. The group increased their bookings after beginning an association with manager Herb Cohen, while they gradually gained attention on the burgeoning Los Angeles underground music scene. In early 1966, they were spotted by leading record producer Tom Wilson when playing "Trouble Every Day", a song about the Watts Riots. Wilson had earned acclaim as the producer for Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel, and was notable as one of the few African-Americans working as a major label pop music producer at this time. Wilson signed the Mothers to the Verve division of MGM, which had built up a strong reputation for its releases of modern jazz recordings in the 1940s and 1950s, but was attempting to diversify into pop and rock audiences. Verve insisted that the band officially rename themselves The Mothers of Invention as Mother was short for motherfucker—a term that, apart from its profane meanings, can denote a skilled musician.
1966: Debut album: Freak Out!
1966–68: New York periodIn 1967 and 1968, Zappa made two appearances with The Monkees. The first appearance was on an episode of the TV series, "The Monkees Blow Their Minds" where he plays Mike Nesmith and Nesmith plays him. Zappa destroys a car as "Mother People" plays. He later did a cameo on The Monkees' movie Head where, leading a cow, he tells Davy Jones "the youth of America depends on you to show them the way." Zappa had respect for what the Monkees were doing, and offered Micky Dolenz a position in the Mothers. RCA/Columbia/Colgems would not allow Dolenz out of his contract.
1969: Disbanding the original Mothers of Invention
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In 1969 there were nine band members and Zappa was supporting the group himself from his publishing royalties whether they played or not. 1969 was also the year Zappa, fed up with MGM's interference, left MGM Records for Warner Bros. Records' Reprise Records subsidiary where Zappa/Mothers recordings would bear the Bizarre Records imprint. In late 1969, Zappa broke up the band. He often cited the financial strain as the main reason, but also commented on the band members' lack of sufficient effort. Many band members were bitter about Zappa's decision, and some took it as a sign of Zappa's concern for perfection at the expense of human feeling. Others were irritated by 'his autocratic ways', exemplified by Zappa's never staying at the same hotel as the band members. Several members would, however, play for Zappa in years to come. Remaining recordings with the band from this period were collected on Weasels Ripped My Flesh and Burnt Weeny Sandwich (both released in 1970).
After he disbanded the Mothers of Invention, Zappa released the acclaimed solo album Hot Rats (1969). It features, for the first time on record, Zappa playing extended guitar solos and contains one of his most enduring compositions, "Peaches en Regalia", which reappeared several times on future recordings. It was backed by jazz, blues and R&B session players including violinist Don "Sugarcane" Harris, drummers John Guerin and Paul Humphrey, multi-instrumentalist and previous member of the Mothers of Invention Ian Underwood, and multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis on bass, along with a guest appearance by Captain Beefheart (providing vocals to the only non-instrumental track, "Willie the Pimp"). It became a popular album in England, and had a major influence on the development of the jazz-rock fusion genre.
1970s: From Mothers to ZappaIn 1970 Zappa met conductor Zubin Mehta. They arranged a May 1970 concert where Mehta conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic augmented by a rock band. According to Zappa, the music was mostly written in motel rooms while on tour with the Mothers of Invention. Some of it was later featured in the movie 200 Motels. Although the concert was a success, Zappa's experience working with a symphony orchestra was not a happy one. His dissatisfaction became a recurring theme throughout his career; he often felt that the quality of performance of his material delivered by orchestras was not commensurate with the money he spent on orchestral concerts and recordings.
1970: Rebirth of the Mothers and filmmakingLater in 1970, Zappa formed a new version of the Mothers (from then on, he mostly dropped the "of Invention"). It included British drummer Aynsley Dunbar, jazz keyboardist George Duke, Ian Underwood, Jeff Simmons (bass, rhythm guitar), and three members of The Turtles: bass player Jim Pons, and singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, who, due to persistent legal and contractual problems, adopted the stage name "The Phlorescent Leech and Eddie", or "Flo & Eddie".
This version of the Mothers debuted on Zappa's next solo album Chunga's Revenge (1970), which was followed by the double-album soundtrack to the movie 200 Motels (1971), featuring the Mothers, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ringo Starr, Theodore Bikel, and Keith Moon. Co-directed by Zappa and Tony Palmer, it was filmed in a week at Pinewood Studios outside London. Tensions between Zappa and several cast and crew members arose before and during shooting. The film deals loosely with life on the road as a rock musician. It was the first feature film photographed on videotape and transferred to 35 mm film, a process which allowed for novel visual effects. It was released to mixed reviews. The score relied extensively on orchestral music, and Zappa's dissatisfaction with the classical music world intensified when a concert, scheduled at the Royal Albert Hall after filming, was canceled because a representative of the venue found some of the lyrics obscene. In 1975, he lost a lawsuit against the Royal Albert Hall for breach of contract.
After 200 Motels, the band went on tour, which resulted in two live albums, Fillmore East - June 1971 and Just Another Band From L.A.; the latter included the 20-minute track "Billy the Mountain", Zappa's satire on rock opera set in Southern California. This track was representative of the band's theatrical performances in which songs were used to build up sketches based on 200 Motels scenes as well as new situations often portraying the band members' sexual encounters on the road.
1971–72: Accident, attack and their aftermath
The closing track on Waka/Jawaka, one of Zappa's jazz-oriented albums.
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During 1971–72 Zappa released two strongly jazz-oriented solo LPs, Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo, which were recorded during the forced layoff from concert touring, using floating line-ups of session players and Mothers alumni. Musically, the albums were akin to Hot Rats. Zappa began touring again in late 1972. His first effort was a series of concerts in September 1972 with a 20-piece big band referred to as the Grand Wazoo. This was followed by a scaled-down version known as the Petit Wazoo that toured the U.S. for five weeks from October to December 1972.
1973–75: Top 10 albumZappa then formed and toured with smaller groups that variously included Ian Underwood (reeds, keyboards), Ruth Underwood (vibes, marimba), Sal Marquez (trumpet, vocals), Napoleon Murphy Brock (sax, flute and vocals), Bruce Fowler (trombone), Tom Fowler (bass), Chester Thompson (drums), Ralph Humphrey (drums), George Duke (keyboards, vocals), and Jean-Luc Ponty (violin).
By 1973 the Bizarre and Straight labels were discontinued. In their place, Zappa and Cohen created DiscReet Records, also distributed by Warner Bros. Zappa continued a high rate of production through the first half of the 1970s, including the solo album Apostrophe (') (1974), which reached a career-high No. 10 on the Billboard pop album charts helped by the chart single "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow". Other albums from the period are Over-Nite Sensation (1973), which contained several future concert favorites, such as "Dinah-Moe Humm" and "Montana", and the albums Roxy & Elsewhere (1974) and One Size Fits All (1975) which feature ever-changing versions of a band still called The Mothers, and are notable for the tight renditions of highly difficult jazz fusion songs in such pieces as "Inca Roads", "Echidna's Arf (Of You)" and "Be-Bop Tango (Of the Old Jazzmen's Church)". A live recording from 1974, You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 2 (1988), captures "the full spirit and excellence of the 1973–75 band". Zappa released Bongo Fury (1975), which featured live recordings from a tour the same year that reunited him with Captain Beefheart for a brief period. They later became estranged for a period of years, but were in contact at the end of Zappa's life.
1976–79: Business breakups and touringZappa's relationship with long-time manager Herb Cohen ended in 1976. Zappa sued Cohen for skimming more than he was allocated from DiscReet Records, as well as for signing acts of which Zappa did not approve. Cohen filed a lawsuit against Zappa in return, which froze the money Zappa and Cohen had gained from an out-of-court settlement with MGM over the rights of the early Mothers of Invention recordings. It also prevented Zappa having access to any of his previously recorded material during the trials. Zappa therefore took his personal master copies of the rock-oriented Zoot Allures (1976) directly to Warner Bros., thereby bypassing DiscReet.
In the mid-1970s Zappa prepared material for Läther (pronounced "leather"), a four-LP project. Läther encapsulated all the aspects of Zappa's musical styles—rock tunes, orchestral works, complex instrumentals, and Zappa's own trademark distortion-drenched guitar solos. Wary of a quadruple-LP, Warner Bros. Records refused to release it. Zappa managed to get an agreement with Phonogram, and test pressings were made targeted at a Halloween 1977 release, but Warner Bros. prevented the release by claiming rights over the material. Zappa responded by appearing on the Pasadena, California radio station KROQ, allowing them to broadcast Läther and encouraging listeners to make their own tape recordings. A lawsuit between Zappa and Warner Bros. followed, during which no Zappa material was released for more than a year. Eventually, Warner Bros. issued different versions of much of the Läther material in 1978 and 1979 as four individual albums (five full length LPs) with limited promotion. When the music was first released on CD in 1991, Zappa chose to rerelease the four existing albums. Läther was released posthumously in 1996.
Although Zappa eventually gained the rights to all his material created under the MGM and Warner Bros. contracts, the various lawsuits meant that for a period Zappa's only income came from touring, which he therefore did extensively in 1975–77 with relatively small, mainly rock-oriented, bands. Drummer Terry Bozzio became a regular band member, Napoleon Murphy Brock stayed on for a while, and original Mothers of Invention bassist Roy Estrada joined. Among other musicians were bassist Patrick O'Hearn, singer-guitarist Ray White and keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson. In December 1976, Zappa appeared as a featured musical guest on the NBC television show Saturday Night Live. Zappa's song, "I'm the Slime", was performed with a voice-over by SNL booth announcer Don Pardo, who also introduced "Peaches En Regalia" on the same airing. In 1978, Zappa served both as host and musical act on the show, and as an actor in various sketches. The performances included an impromptu musical collaboration with cast member John Belushi during the instrumental piece "The Purple Lagoon". Belushi appeared as his Samurai Futaba character playing the tenor sax with Zappa conducting.
Zappa's band at the time, with the additions of Ruth Underwood and a horn section (featuring Michael and Randy Brecker), performed during Christmas in New York, recordings of which appear on one of the albums Warner Bros. culled from the Läther project, Zappa in New York (1978). It mixes intense instrumentals such as "The Black Page" and humorous songs like "Titties and Beer". The former composition, written originally for drum kit but later developed for larger bands, is notorious for its complexity in rhythmic structure and short, densely arranged passages.
One of Zappa's complex, percussion-based compositions featured on Zappa in New York.
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1979: Zappa as an independent artist
The single became a hit in non-English speaking countries and helped Sheik Yerbouti become a best-seller.
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On December 21, 1979, Zappa's movie Baby Snakes premiered in New York. The movie's tagline was "A movie about people who do stuff that is not normal". The 2 hour and 40 minutes movie was based on footage from concerts in New York around Halloween 1977, with a band featuring keyboardist Tommy Mars and percussionist Ed Mann (who would both return on later tours) as well as guitarist Adrian Belew. It also contained several extraordinary sequences of clay animation by Bruce Bickford who had earlier provided animation sequences to Zappa for a 1974 TV special (which became available on the 1982 video The Dub Room Special). The movie did not do well in theatrical distribution, but won the Premier Grand Prix at the First International Music Festival in Paris in 1981.
Zappa later expanded on his television appearances in a non-musical role. He was an actor or voice artist in episodes of Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre, Miami Vice and The Ren and Stimpy Show. A voice part in The Simpsons never materialized, to creator Matt Groening's disappointment (Groening was a neighbor of Zappa's, and a lifelong fan).
1980s: Productive as everIn 1980, Zappa cut his ties with Mercury Records after the label refused to release his song "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted." It was picked up by CBS Records and released on the Zappa label in North America and the CBS label internationally. After spending most of 1980 on the road, Zappa released Tinsel Town Rebellion in 1981. It was the first release on his own Barking Pumpkin Records, and it contains songs taken from a 1979 tour, one studio track and material from the 1980 tours. The album is a mixture of complicated instrumentals and Zappa's use of sprechstimme (speaking song or voice)—a compositional technique utilized by such composers as Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg—showcasing some of the most accomplished bands Zappa ever had (mostly featuring drummer Vinnie Colaiuta). While some lyrics still raised controversy among critics, in the sense that some found them sexist, the political and sociological satire in songs like the title track and "The Blue Light" have been described as a "hilarious critique of the willingness of the American people to believe anything". The album is also notable for the presence of guitarist Steve Vai, who joined Zappa's touring band in the fall of 1980.
The same year the double album You Are What You Is was released. Most of it was recorded in Zappa's brand new Utility Muffin Research Kitchen (UMRK) studios, which were located at his house, thereby giving him complete freedom to work. The album included one complex instrumental, "Theme from the 3rd Movement of Sinister Footwear", but focused mainly on rock songs with Zappa's sardonic social commentary—satirical lyrics targeted at teenagers, the media, and religious and political hypocrisy. "Dumb All Over" is a tirade on religion, as is "Heavenly Bank Account", wherein Zappa rails against TV evangelists such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson for their purported influence on the U.S. administration as well as their use of religion as a means of raising money. Songs like "Society Pages" and "I'm a Beautiful Guy" show Zappa's dismay with the Reagan era and its "obscene pursuit of wealth and happiness".
The title track on Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar features Zappa's guitar improvisations.
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From hit single to classical performancesIn May 1982, Zappa released Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, which featured his biggest selling single ever, the Grammy Award-nominated song "Valley Girl" (topping out at No. 32 on the Billboard charts). In her improvised lyrics to the song, Zappa's daughter Moon Unit satirized the vapid speech of teenage girls from the San Fernando Valley, which popularized many "Valspeak" expressions such as "gag me with a spoon," "fer sure, fer sure," "grody" (gross), and "barf out". Most Americans who only knew Zappa from his few singles successes now thought of him as a person writing novelty songs, even though the rest of the album contained highly challenging music. Zappa was irritated by this and never played the song live.
In 1983, two different projects were released, beginning with The Man from Utopia, a rock-oriented work. The album is eclectic, featuring the vocal-led "Dangerous Kitchen" and "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats", both continuations of the sprechstimme excursions on Tinseltown Rebellion. The second album, London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 1, contained orchestral Zappa compositions conducted by Kent Nagano and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). A second record of these sessions, London Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 2 was released in 1987. The material was recorded under a tight schedule with Zappa providing all funding, helped by the commercial success of "Valley Girl". Zappa was not satisfied with the LSO recordings. One reason is "Strictly Genteel", which was recorded after the trumpet section had been out for drinks on a break: the track took 40 edits to hide out-of-tune notes. Conductor Nagano, who was pleased with the experience, noted that "in fairness to the orchestra, the music is humanly very, very difficult". Some reviews noted that the recordings were the best representation of Zappa's orchestral work so far. In 1984 Zappa teamed again with Nagano and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra for a live performance of A Zappa Affair with augmented orchestra, life-size puppets, and moving stage sets. Although critically acclaimed the work was a financial failure, and only performed twice. Zappa was invited by conference organizer Thomas Wells to be the keynote speaker at the American Society of University Composers at the Ohio State University. It was there Zappa delivered his famous "Bingo! There Goes Your Tenure" address, and had two of his orchestra pieces, "Dupree's Paradise" and "Naval Aviation in Art?" performed by the Columbus Symphony and ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus.
A Zappa composition for classical ensemble from Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger.
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The album Thing-Fish was an ambitious three-record set in the style of a Broadway play dealing with a dystopian "what-if" scenario involving feminism, homosexuality, manufacturing and distribution of the AIDS virus, and a eugenics program conducted by the United States government. New vocals were combined with previously released tracks and new Synclavier music; "the work is an extraordinary example of bricolage". Finally, in 1984, Zappa released Francesco Zappa, a Synclavier rendition of works by 18th-century composer Francesco Zappa (no known relation), and Them or Us, a two-record set of heavily edited live and session pieces.
Digital medium and last tourAround 1986, Zappa undertook a comprehensive re-release program of his earlier vinyl recordings. He personally oversaw the remastering of all his 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s albums for the new digital compact disc medium. Certain aspects of these re-issues were, however, criticized by some fans as being unfaithful to the original recordings. Nearly twenty years before the advent of online music stores, Zappa had proposed to replace "phonographic record merchandising" of music by "direct digital-to-digital transfer" through phone or cable TV (with royalty payments and consumer billing automatically built into the accompanying software). In 1989, Zappa considered his idea a "miserable flop".
The album Jazz from Hell, released in 1986, earned Zappa his first Grammy Award in 1988 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Except for one live guitar solo ("St. Etienne"), the album exclusively featured compositions brought to life by the Synclavier. Although an instrumental album, containing no lyrics whatsoever, Meyer Music Markets sold Jazz from Hell featuring an "explicit lyrics" sticker—a warning label introduced by the Recording Industry Association of America in an agreement with the PMRC.
Zappa's last tour in a rock and jazz band format took place in 1988 with a 12-piece group which had a repertoire of over 100 (mostly Zappa) compositions, but which split under acrimonious circumstances before the tour was completed. The tour was documented on the albums Broadway the Hard Way (new material featuring songs with strong political emphasis), The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life (Zappa "standards" and an eclectic collection of cover tunes, ranging from Maurice Ravel's Boléro to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven") and Make a Jazz Noise Here. Parts are also found on You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, volumes 4 and 6.
1990s: Classical music and death
One of Zappa's works for Synclavier on Civilization, Phaze III, cited as his "last great work."
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In 1991, Zappa was chosen to be one of four featured composers at the Frankfurt Festival in 1992 (the others were John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Alexander Knaifel). Zappa was approached by the German chamber ensemble, Ensemble Modern, which was interested in playing his music for the event. Although ill, Zappa invited them to Los Angeles for rehearsals of new compositions and new arrangements of older material. In addition to being satisfied with the ensemble's performances of his music, Zappa also got along with the musicians, and the concerts in Germany and Austria were set up for the fall. In September 1992, the concerts went ahead as scheduled, but Zappa could only appear at two in Frankfurt due to illness. At the first concert, he conducted the opening "Overture", and the final "G-Spot Tornado" as well as the theatrical "Food Gathering in Post-Industrial America, 1992" and "Welcome to the United States" (the remainder of the program was conducted by the ensemble's regular conductor Peter Rundel). Zappa received a 20-minute ovation. It would become his last professional public appearance, as the cancer was spreading to such an extent that he was in too much pain to enjoy an event that he otherwise found "exhilarating". Recordings from the concerts appeared on The Yellow Shark (1993), Zappa's last release during his lifetime, and some material from studio rehearsals appeared on the posthumous Everything Is Healing Nicely (1999).
Frank Zappa died on Saturday, December 4, 1993, in his home with his wife and children by his side. At a private ceremony the following day, Zappa was interred in an unmarked grave at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. On Monday, December 6 his family publicly announced that "Composer Frank Zappa left for his final tour just before 6:00 pm on Saturday".
Politics and religionZappa was often characterized as an atheist. When asked on his religion for Dweezil's birth certificate, Zappa listed his religion as "musician".
Describing his political views, Frank Zappa categorized himself as a "practical conservative", or "independent". He favored limited government and low taxes; he also stated that he approved of national defense, social security, and other federal programs, but only if recipients of such programs are willing and able to pay for them. He favored capitalism, entrepreneurship, and independent business, stating that musicians could make more from owning their own businesses than from collecting royalties. He opposed communism, stating, "A system that doesn't allow ownership [...] has—to put it mildly—a fatal design flaw." Some of his songs, concert performances, interviews and public debates in the 1980s criticized and derided Republicans and their policies, President Ronald Reagan, the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), televangelism, and the Christian Right, and warned that the United States government was in danger of becoming a "fascist theocracy". Zappa expressed opinions on censorship when he appeared on CNN's Crossfire TV series and debated issues with Washington Times commentator John Lofton in 1986. He had always encouraged his fans to register to vote on album covers, and throughout 1988 he had registration booths at his concerts. He even considered running for president of the United States.
Zappa did not use illegal drugs. He tried cannabis ten times, but without any pleasure, and "never used LSD, never used cocaine, never used heroin or any of that other stuff." Zappa stated, "Drugs do not become a problem until the person who uses the drugs does something to you, or does something that would affect your life that you don't want to have happen to you, like an airline pilot who crashes because he was full of drugs." He was a regular tobacco smoker for most of his life, and strongly critical of anti-tobacco campaigns. While he disapproved of drug use, he criticized the War on Drugs, comparing it to alcohol prohibition, and stated that the United States Treasury would benefit from the decriminalization and regulation of drugs. Describing his philosophical views, Zappa stated, "I believe that people have a right to decide their own destinies; people own themselves. I also believe that, in a democracy, government exists because (and only so long as) individual citizens give it a 'temporary license to exist'—in exchange for a promise that it will behave itself. In a democracy, you own the government—it doesn't own you."
In early 1990, Zappa visited Czechoslovakia at the request of President Václav Havel. Havel designated him as Czechoslovakia's "Special Ambassador to the West on Trade, Culture and Tourism". Havel was a lifelong fan of Zappa, who had great influence in the avant-garde and underground scene in Central Europe in the 1970s and 1980s (a Czech rock group that was imprisoned in 1976 took its name from Zappa's 1968 song "Plastic People"). Under pressure from US Secretary of State James Baker, Zappa's posting was withdrawn. Havel made Zappa an unofficial cultural attaché instead. Zappa also planned to develop an international consulting enterprise to facilitate trade between the former Eastern Bloc and Western businesses.
Senate testimonyOn September 19, 1985, Zappa testified before the United States Senate Commerce, Technology, and Transportation committee, attacking the Parents Music Resource Center or PMRC, a music organization co-founded by Tipper Gore, wife of then-senator Al Gore. The PMRC consisted of many wives of politicians, including the wives of five members of the committee, and was founded to address the issue of song lyrics with sexual or satanic content. Zappa saw their activities as on a path towards censorship, and called their proposal for voluntary labelling of records with explicit content "extortion" of the music industry. In his prepared statement, he said:
The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense which fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design. It is my understanding that, in law, First Amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC's demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation..... The establishment of a rating system, voluntary or otherwise, opens the door to an endless parade of moral quality control programs based on things certain Christians do not like. What if the next bunch of Washington wives demands a large yellow "J" on all material written or performed by Jews, in order to save helpless children from exposure to concealed Zionist doctrine?Zappa set excerpts from the PMRC hearings to Synclavier music in his composition "Porn Wars" on the 1985 album Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention, and the full recording was released in 2010 as Congress Shall Make No Law.... Zappa is heard interacting with Senators Fritz Hollings, Slade Gorton, Al Gore (who claimed, at the hearing, to be a Zappa fan), and in an exchange with Florida Senator Paula Hawkins over what toys Zappa's children played with.
Acclaim and honorsZappa earned widespread critical acclaim in his lifetime and after his death. The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004) 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 drew 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 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."
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 U.S. 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 at No. 71 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2011, he was ranked at No. 22 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by the same magazine.
Artists influenced by ZappaA number of notable musicians, bands and orchestras from diverse genres have been influenced by Frank Zappa's music. Rock artists like Alice Cooper, Primus, Fee Waybill of The Tubes all cite Zappa's influence, as do progressive, alternative and experimental rock artists like Can, Pere Ubu, Henry Cow, Trey Anastasio of Phish, Jeff Buckley, Faust, and John Frusciante. Paul McCartney regarded Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as The Beatles' Freak Out! Heavy rock and metal acts like Black Sabbath, Simon Phillips, Mike Portnoy, Warren DeMartini, Steve Vai, Strapping Young Lad, System of a Down, Clawfinger, and Devin Townsend acknowledge Zappa's inspiration. On the classical music scene, Tomas Ulrich, Meridian Arts Ensemble, Ensemble Ambrosius and the Fireworks Ensemble regularly perform Zappa's compositions and quote his influence. Contemporary jazz musicians and composers Bill Frisell and John Zorn are inspired by Zappa, as is funk legend George Clinton. Other artists whose work is affected by Zappa include ambient composer Brian Eno, new age pianist George Winston, electronic composer Bob Gluck, parodist and novelty composer "Weird Al" Yankovic, industrial music pioneer Genesis P-Orridge, and noise music artist Masami Akita of Merzbow.
References in arts and sciencesScientists from various fields have honored Zappa by naming new discoveries after him. In 1967, paleontologist Leo P. Plas, Jr. identified an extinct mollusc in Nevada and named it Amaurotoma zappa with the motivation that, "The specific name, zappa, honors Frank Zappa". In the 1980s, biologist Ed Murdy named a genus of gobiid fishes of New Guinea Zappa, with a species named Zappa confluentus. Biologist Ferdinando Boero named a Californian jellyfish Phialella zappai (1987), noting that he had "pleasure in naming this species after the modern music composer". Belgian biologists Bosmans and Bosselaers discovered in the early 1980s a Cameroonese spider, which they in 1994 named Pachygnatha zappa because "the ventral side of the abdomen of the female of this species strikingly resembles the artist's legendary moustache". A gene of the bacterium Proteus mirabilis that causes urinary tract infections was in 1995 named zapA by three biologists from Maryland. In their scientific article, they "especially thank the late Frank Zappa for inspiration and assistance with genetic nomenclature". Repeating regions of the genome of the human tumor virus KSHV were named frnk, vnct and zppa in 1996 by the Moore and Chang who discovered the virus. Also, a 143 base pair repeat sequence occurring at two positions was named waka/jwka. In the late 1990s, American paleontologists Marc Salak and Halard L. Lescinsky discovered a metazoan fossil, and named it Spygori zappania to honor "the late Frank Zappa ... whose mission paralleled that of the earliest paleontologists: to challenge conventional and traditional beliefs when such beliefs lacked roots in logic and reason".
In 1994, lobbying efforts initiated by psychiatrist John Scialli led the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center to name an asteroid in Zappa's honor: 3834 Zappafrank. The asteroid was discovered in 1980 by Czechoslovakian astronomer Ladislav Brozek, and the citation for its naming says that "Zappa was an eclectic, self-trained artist and composer ... Before 1989 he was regarded as a symbol of democracy and freedom by many people in Czechoslovakia".
In 1995, a bust of Zappa by sculptor Konstantinas Bogdanas was installed in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. The choice of Zappa was explained as "a symbol that would mark the end of communism, but at the same time express that it wasn't always doom and gloom." A replica was offered to the city of Baltimore in 2008, and on September 19, 2010—the twenty-fifth anniversary of Zappa's testimony to the U.S. Senate—a ceremony dedicating the replica was held, and the bust was at a library in the city. In 2002, a bronze bust was installed in German city Bad Doberan, location of the Zappanale since 1990, an annual music festival celebrating Zappa. At the initiative of musicians community ORWOhaus, the city of Berlin named a street in the Marzahn district "Frank-Zappa-Straße" in 2007. The same year, Baltimore mayor Sheila Dixon proclaimed August 9 as the city's official "Frank Zappa Day" citing Zappa's musical accomplishments as well as his defense of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
- Until discovering his birth certificate as an adult, Zappa believed he had been christened "Francis", and he is credited as Francis on some of his early albums. His legal name was always "Frank", however, never "Francis". Cf. Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 15.
- Zappa, Frank; Occhiogrosso, Peter (1989). Real Frank Zappa Book. Simon and Schuster. p. 15. ISBN 9780671705725.
My ancestry is Sicilian, Greek, Arab and French. My mother's mother was French and Sicilian, and her Dad was Italian (from Naples). She was first generation. The Greek-Arab side is from my Dad. He was born in a Sicilian village called Partinico...
- The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, 1993.
- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book. pg. 6
- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 20–23.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 8–9.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 10.
- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 22.
- Slaven, Neil (2003). Electric Don Quixote: The Definitive Story of Frank Zappa (2nd ed.). Music Sales Group. p. 46. ISBN 0-7119-9436-6. , Extract
- Mendoza, Bart (November 2005). "Counter Culture Coincidence" (PDF). San Diego Troubadour. p. 4. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
- "Interview in Playboy". Playboy. May 2, 1993.
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- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 29.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 22.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 36.
- Zappa, Frank (June 1971). "Edgard Varese: The Idol of My Youth". Stereo Review: 61–62.
- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 30–33.
- Holmes, Thom (2008). "Early Synthesizers and Experimenters". Electronic and experimental music: technology, music, and culture (3rd ed.). Taylor & Francis. pp. 153–4. ISBN 0-415-95781-8. Retrieved 2011-06-04.
- Watson, 1996, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, p. 13.
- Among his many musical satires are the 1967 songs "Flower Punk" (which parodies the song "Hey Joe") and "Who Needs The Peace Corps?", which are critiques of the late-Sixties commercialization of the hippie phenomenon.
- For a comprehensive list of the appearance of parts of "old" compositions or quotes from others' music in Zappa's catalogue, see Albertos, Román García, FZ Musical Quotes, Information is Not Knowledge, globia.net/donlope . Retrieved January 21, 2008.
- On several of his earlier albums, Zappa paid tribute to Varèse by quoting his: "The present-day composer refuses to die."
- Slaven, 2003, Electric Don Quixote, pp. 29–30.
- Mike Douglas (November 1976), The Mike Douglas Show, NBC [TV Show]
- The other signature pieces are "Zoot Allures" and "Black Napkins" from Zoot Allures. See Zappa, Dweezil (1996), Greetings music lovers, Dweezil here, Liner Notes, Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 40.
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- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 43.
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- Harp, Ted (March 1965), "Vice Squad Raids Local Film Studio", The Daily Report (Ontario, California)
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- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. XV.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 87.
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- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 90–91.
- Swenson, John (March 1980), Frank Zappa: America's Weirdest Rock Star Comes Clean, High Times
- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 65–66.
- Slaven, 2003, Electric Don Quixote, p. 42.
- Walley, 1980, No Commercial Potential, p. 58.
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- Nigel Leigh (March 1993), Interview with Frank Zappa (BBC Late Show), UMRK, Los Angeles, CA: BBC [TV Show]
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- "How We Made It Sound That Way", interview on WDET Detroit, 13 November 1967 (excerpt included as part of the MOFO album, 2006)
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- Walley, 1980, No Commercial Potential, p. 86.
- Couture, François, "Lumpy Gravy. Review", AllMusic . Retrieved January 2, 2008; Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 56.
- The initial orchestra-only recordings were released posthumously on the box set Lumpy Money (2009). See Dolan, Casey (December 8, 2008), "The Resurrection of Frank Zappa's Soul", LA Weekly (Village Voice Media) . Retrieved February 2, 2009.
- James, 2000, Necessity Is ... , pp. 62–69.
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- Huey, Steve, "We're Only in It for the Money. Review", AllMusic . Retrieved January 2, 2008.
- Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 15. Walley, 1980, No Commercial Potential, p. 90.
- Cox and Warner, 2004, Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, p. 148.
- As the legal aspects of using the Sgt Pepper concept were unsettled, the album was released with the cover and back on the inside of the gatefold, while the actual cover and back were a picture of the group in a pose parodying the inside of the Beatles album. Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 151.
- Watson, 1996, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, p. 88.
- Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 58.
- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 88.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 160.
- James, 2000, Necessity Is ..., p. 104.
- In the process, he built up a vast archive of live recordings. In the late 1980s some of these recordings were collected for the 12-CD set You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore.
- Michie, Chris (January 2003), We are The Mothers...and This Is What We Sound Like!, MixOnline.com . Retrieved January 4, 2008.
- Bob Marshall, "Interview with Frank Zappa," October 22, 1988.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 173–175.
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- Couture, François. "Peaches en Regalia [Song Review]". AllMusic. Retrieved April 11, 2010.
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- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 107.
- Slaven, 2003, Electric Don Quixote, p. 120.
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- Huey, Steve, "Hot Rats. Review", AllMusic . Retrieved January 2, 2008.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 194.
- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 109.
- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 142–156.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 201.
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- Watson, 1996, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, p. 183.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 207.
- Starks, 1982, Cocaine Fiends and Reefer Madness, p. 153.
- Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 94.
- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 119–137.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 203–204.
- During the June 1971 Fillmore concerts Zappa was joined on stage by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. This performance was recorded, and Lennon released excerpts on his album Some Time In New York City in 1972. Zappa later released his version of excerpts from the concert on Playground Psychotics in 1992, including the jam track "Scumbag" and an extended avant-garde vocal piece by Ono (originally called "Au"), which Zappa renamed "A Small Eternity with Yoko Ono".
- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 112–115.
- Lowe, 2006, The Words and Music of Frank Zappa, p. 101.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, pp. 225–226.
- Official recordings of these bands did not emerge until more than 30 years later on Wazoo (2007) and Imaginary Diseases (2006), respectively.
- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 231.
- "Frank Zappa > Charts and Awards > Billboard Albums", AllMusic . Retrieved January 3, 2008.
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- It remains debated whether Zappa had conceived the material as a four-LP set from the beginning, or only when approaching Mercury-Phonogram; see, e.g., Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 49. In the liner notes to the 1996 release, however, Gail Zappa states that "As originally conceived by Frank, Läther was always a 4-record box set."
- Watson, 2005, Frank Zappa. The Complete Guide to His Music, p. 49.
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- Both albums made it onto the Billboard top 30."Frank Zappa > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums", AllMusic . Retrieved January 6, 2008.
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- The musical was eventually produced for the stage in 2003. See Thing-Fish – The Return of Frank Zappa, The British Theatre Guide . Retrieved December 11, 2007.
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- Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 340.
- For a comprehensive comparison of vinyl of CD releases, see The Frank Zappa Album Versions Guide – Index, The Zappa Patio, lukpac.org/~handmade/patio . Retrieved January 7, 2008.
- For example, new drum and bass parts were used on the 1960s albums We're Only in It for the Money and Cruising with Ruben & the Jets. See Miles, 2004, Frank Zappa, p. 327.
- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 337–339.
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- It brought him a posthumous Grammy Award (with Gail Zappa) for Best Recording Package – Boxed in 1994. GRAMMY Winners, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences . Retrieved August 18, 2008.
- Menn, Don, ed. (1992), "Andreas Mölich-Zebhauser—Preparing the Ensemble Modern for the Frankfurt Festival", Zappa! Guitar Player Presents, San Francisco, CA: Miller Freeman, pp. 12–13, ISSN 1063-4533
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I was an atheist. Zappa was atheist.
- Stephen Bullivant, Michael Ruse, ed. (2013). The Oxford Handbook of Atheism. Oxford University Press. p. 722. ISBN 9780199644650.
Of numerous atheist rock musicians, Frank Zappa ranks among the most outspoken.
- "Dweezil Zappa Bio". Retrieved 12 May 2014.
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- He considered such campaigns as yuppie inventions and noted that "Some people like garlic..... I like pepper, tobacco and coffee. That's my metabolism". Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, pp. 234–235.
- Zappa with Occhiogrosso, 1989, The Real Frank Zappa Book, p. 239, Extract of page 239
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Media related to Frank Zappa at Wikimedia Commons Quotations related to Frank Zappa at Wikiquote
- The official Frank Zappa website
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Frank Zappa at the Internet Movie Database
- Works by or about Frank Zappa in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Frank Zappa collected news and commentary at The Guardian
- Frank Zappa collected news and commentary at The New York Times
- Frank Zappa at the Notable Names Database
- Frank Zappa interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
- Frank Zappa at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame