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Frank Zappa – He Left His Unconventional Mark on American Music History

Music | September 24, 2018

Frank Zappa (Original Caption) American singer-songwriter Frank Zappa, 1972. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Frank Zappa was arguably one of the most unique and interesting musicians in American music history. In addition to being a musician, he was also a songwriter, filmmaker and activist. Zappa’s musical interests were very diverse and included classical, orchestral, rock and roll, blues, pop and jazz; somewhat all over the place and sometimes difficult, if not impossible to assign a genre. Although his 30 plus year career was thought to be unconventional and shocking at times, Zappa was a great entertainer!

Zappa had the ability to be a one-man show. He was a singer, songwriter, graphic artist, music producer and very talented guitarist. Zappa began his life-long music career when he was just years 11 years old, playing the drums in a band with some friends. Fast forward a few years and he was writing music at the age of 15. Zappa had a natural talent and was self-taught.

Frank Zappa formed The Mothers of Invention and released over 60 albums during his lifetime, most of which he produced himself.

In 1964, Frank Zappa formed the iconic band, The Mothers of Invention. This name couldn’t have been better suited for Zappa with his ability to constantly reinvent everything we thought we knew about music. He was an unconventional character known for his “colorful” language and often off the wall behavior and stage shows.

Freak Out! was the first album of Frank Zappa’s impressive career!

Freak Out! was released in 1966. From that point on, there was no stopping Zappa. This album has been referred to as “one of rock music’s first concept albums.” Freak Out! is said to be “a satirical expression of Zappa's perception of American pop culture.”

By the time the '70s rolled around, Frank Zappa was well known around the globe. While other artists and bands were trying to make it to the top, Zappa was already there. The groovy era was a time of tough competition in the music industry. Solo artists and groups were struggling to find their unique niche. This was a great era for music which resulted in musicians doing their best to stand out for their image as well as their music.

Music groups like KISS and others got creative with costumes, makeup and stage props in order to leave fans with a lasting and memorable image.

Although this era saw a lot of innovative and interesting stage personas, Frank Zappa surely stood out among them. While everyone else was wracking their brains to come up with the latest and greatest image, Zappa was just being himself.

Frank Zappa even appeared in televisions shows including Miami Vice and The Monkees.

Everything about Frank Zappa was unconventional. From his personality and style of music to his personal interests and choice of names for his children; Moon Zappa, Dweezil Zappa, Ahmet Zappa and Diva Zappa. These names caught the attention of the world but considering the source, no one was the least bit surprised or concerned.

Frank Zappa was once quoted as saying, “Most people wouldn’t know good music if it came and bit them on the ass.”

This statement is just one example of Zappa’s liberal views and free expression. He was known for his outspoken and sometimes inappropriate language that even his songs came with parental warnings; even the ones with no foul language.

Zappa’s bestselling single record was, Valley Girl. He wrote the song with his then 14-year-old daughter, Moon Unit Zappa, in mind.  It became his biggest-selling single ever and made it to No. 32 on the Billboard Charts. Do you remember the saying, “Gag me with a spoon?”

Zappa was outraged that his music was being censored. He always felt that it was a violation of his right to free speech. Zappa actually went to then-President Ronald Reagan in protest. When the president didn’t support his cause, he purposely got even more vulgar just to prove his point. The more shocking the better, as far as he was concerned.

Frank Zappa wrote so many songs that he didn’t get to publish all of his work in his lifetime. He left so much behind that to date, his family has released 38 additional albums of his music since his death in 1993, bringing the grand total to 100. Over the course of his epic career, Frank Zappa was quite a force to be reckoned with in the music world. Some loved him and some… not so much. The fact is that he didn’t care. He was being true to himself.

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.