Posted by themusicsover on December 4, 2009
December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993
Frank Zappa was one of popular music’s most creative forces. As a musician, composer, and producer, his 60+ albums crossed most genres while influencing countless artists in their wake. One of Zappa’s unique talents was that he could could just as easily produce a pop rock hit as he could an avant garde movement, while not losing a fan in the process. The bottom line, he was one of popular music’s most difficult to categorize, and beloved for being so. Zappa’s interest in music began when he was a sickly child. Due to his ailments, the Zappa family moved from the east coast to southern California so he could live in a warmer climate. He began collecting all kinds of records when he was still a pre-teen, and that early exposure to such diverse genres as R&B, avant garde, blues, modern classical, and doo wop guided him down a path that would see him seamlessly merge those and other styles of music into something that could only be called his own. Fast forward to the mid ’60s when Zappa and his Mothers of Invention landed their first record deal with Verve Records, oddly, one of the world’s top modern jazz labels. Zappa’s debut album, Freak Out! immediately established him as one of rock’s strangest yet most respected new voices. What followed over the next 30-odd years was a series of albums, both with, and without the Mothers of Invention, that built perhaps one of popular music’s biggest cult followings. Never forgetting the diverse music that inspired him, Zappa occasionally released modern classical and jazz albums along the way. In 1982, Zappa released what would be his biggest hit single, “Valley Girl,” a song that helped launch a pop culture fad that is still mimicked to this day. In 1985, Zappa found himself reaching perhaps his biggest audience by testifying during the senate hearings that eventually forced the record industry to label albums that contained “offensive” lyrics. Zappa, of course felt that was a form of censorship and was their in defense of his fellow songwriters. Ironically, the stickering completely backfired as such labeling only made the “offensive” albums more attractive to young teens. In 1990, Zappa was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Although he continued to record, his focus was primarily on classical music during his final years. Frank Zappa was 52 when the cancer finally took his life on December 4, 1993.
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