Check out Frank Zappa!

Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American composer, singer-songwriter, guitarist, recording engineer, record producer and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa wrote 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.

He 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.

Zappa was a highly productive and prolific artist and gained widespread critical acclaim. He had some commercial success, particularly in Europe, and for most of his career was able to work as an independent artist. 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.

Two posts that I made, here—before I made this page—about two books by/about Frank that I read:

The Real Frank Zappa Book—by FZ with Peter Occhiogrosso
Zappa, a Biography—by Barry Miles


A nice/short/fun history of the music of FZ.

A late show special on the life and music of Frank Zappa, broadcast in the UK shortly before his death in 1993.

“Frank Zappa—A Pioneer of the Future of Music”

A nice/long/fun history of the music of FZ.

A Frank Scheffers documentary, as broadcast by VPRO in the Netherlands April 2007.


1981-xx-xx  The Complete Palladium show, New York City, NY

1988-05-17  Palacio de Deportes, Barcelona, Spain

Film of a great concert on Frank’s last tour.

Frank Zappa, Ike Willis, Mike Keneally, Scott Thunes, Chad Wackerman, Ed Mann, Bobby Martin, Bruce Fowler, Walt Fowler, Paul Carman, Albert Wing, Kurt McGettrick.

“Zappa’s Universe” — a tribute to Frank Zappa
in his 50th birthday year

Recorded live at the Ritz Theatre in NYC, in celebration of his life and works, Zappa’s Universe (the album and video of the same title) documents the big tribute concert thrown for Frank Zappa over four nights (November 7-10, 1991, although the footage on the album and video are from the first two nights), organized by conductor Joel Thome, who assembled the Orchestra of Our Time at the Ritz in NYC. Mike Keneally and Scott Thunes were joined by other ex-Zappa sidemen Steve Vai, Denny Walley among many others including Frank’s son, Dweezil Zappa.

This also marked the occasion where his family finally formally announced that he was seriously ill with cancer, which would end his life two years later. At an afternoon press conference on the day of the first concert, Moon Zappa faced dozens of microphones and cameras to make an announcement on behalf of the family:

‘We’re here to make a statement on behalf of our family. Although Frank was looking forward to being here, and really intended to be here, unfortunately he’s not here. As many of you know, he’s been diagnosed by journalists as having cancer. We’d like you to know his doctors have diagnosed prostate cancer, which he’s been fighting successfully and he has been feeling well and working too hard and planned to attend. Up until the last minute we were still hoping he would feel well enough to get on a plane and come here. There are occasional periods when he’s not feeling as well, and it’s unfortunate it happened to coincide with this event. He’s thrilled people are performing his music. The more the merrier. And we’re thrilled. And we’re here to participate in this event…’

Although Mike Keneally, Steve Vai, and Dweezil Zappa are each equally exceptional, Mike Keneally is really the star of this show. His vocals and guitar work make the album (and the video) the tribute that it is. Unfortunately, the final mix itself is uneven. Rather than presenting the whole concert, certain songs are skipped. Even Keneally suggests that fans avoid the CD and go straight for the video—just remember, Frank’s not on stage.

including performances by:

  • the orchestra of our time, cond. joel thome
  • rock group: mike keneally (gtr), mats öberg (keys),
    marc ziegenhagen (keys), scott thunes (bass),
    morgan agren (drums) and jonathan haas (percussion)
  • the persuasions (vocals)
  • rockapella (vocals)
  • dale bozzio  (vocals)
  • maureen mcnalley (vocals / mezzo-soprano)
  • douglas perry (vocals / tenor)
  • alan gregorie (vocals)

special guests:

  • dweezil zappa — warren demartini — eric buxton —
    lorin hollander — steve vai — denny walley —
    penn jillette — moon zappa — diva zappa — jade


Frank Zappa on CNN’s Crossfire in 1986

Debate with John Lofton from The Washington Times
about recorded song lyrics
with regard to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

The moderators:
“On the left,” Tom Braden:
“Whose job should it be to listen all day to dirty records,
and decide whether you can…?”

“On the right,” Robert Novak:
“Mr. Zappa… are you saying that there is no filth, no pornography,
no obscenity that should not be permitted to be sold and distributed
freely in this country in the form of music videos and rock music…?”

Notice the suit & tie and the short hairwhich appear during this time of the congressional hearings at which Frank spokethat aren’t present in the 1988 concert, above!


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