117 Facts About Frank Zappa


Frank Vincent Zappa was an American musician, composer, and bandleader.


Frank Zappa's work is characterized by nonconformity, free-form improvisation, sound experimentation, musical virtuosity and satire of American culture.


Frank Zappa directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers.


Frank Zappa is considered one of the most innovative and stylistically diverse musicians of his generation.


Frank Zappa began writing classical music in high school, while at the same time playing drums in rhythm and blues bands, later switching to electric guitar.


Frank Zappa continued this eclectic and experimental approach whether the fundamental format was rock, jazz, or classical.


Frank Zappa's lyrics reflected his iconoclastic views of established social and political processes, structures and movements, often humorously so, and he has been described as the "godfather" of comedy rock.


Frank Zappa 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.


Frank Zappa was a highly productive and prolific artist with a controversial critical standing; supporters of his music admired its compositional complexity, while detractors found it lacking emotional depth.


Frank Zappa had greater commercial success outside the US, particularly in Europe.


Frank Zappa remains a major influence on musicians and composers.


Frank Zappa was born on December 21,1940, in Baltimore, Maryland.


Frank Zappa's mother, Rose Marie, was of Italian and French ancestry; his father, whose name was anglicized to Francis Vincent Zappa, was an immigrant from Partinico, near Palermo in the Italian island of Sicily.


Frank Zappa said that as a child he "used to play with it all the time", often by putting liquid mercury on the floor and using a hammer to spray out mercury droplets in a circular pattern, eventually covering the entire floor of his bedroom with them.


Frank Zappa was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 1990, and died from it in 1993 at the age of 52.


Frank Zappa was often sick as a child, suffering from asthma, earaches and sinus problems.


Frank Zappa believed his childhood diseases might have been due to exposure to mustard gas, released by the nearby chemical warfare facility, and his health worsened when he lived in Baltimore.


Frank Zappa joined his first band at Mission Bay High School in San Diego as the drummer.


Frank Zappa was interested in sounds for their own sake, particularly the sounds of drums and other percussion instruments.


Frank Zappa liked the Italian classical music listened to by his grandparents, especially Puccini's opera arias.


Unfortunately, Varese was in Europe at the time, so Frank Zappa spoke to the composer's wife and she suggested he call back later.


The meeting never took place, but Frank Zappa framed the letter and kept it on display for the rest of his life.


At Antelope Valley High School, Frank Zappa met Don Glen Vliet.


Around the same time, Frank Zappa started playing drums in a local band, the Blackouts.


Frank Zappa considered soloing the equivalent of forming "air sculptures", and developed an eclectic, innovative and highly personal style.


Frank Zappa left home in 1959, and moved into a small apartment in Echo Park, Los Angeles.


Frank Zappa worked for a short period in advertising as a copywriter.


Frank Zappa attempted to earn a living as a musician and composer, and played different nightclub gigs, some with a new version of the Blackouts.


Frank Zappa started performing in local bars as a guitarist with a power trio, the Muthers, to support himself.


In March 1965, Frank 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.


When Frank Zappa was about to hand over the tape, he was arrested, and the police stripped the studio of all recorded material.


Frank Zappa lost several recordings made at Studio Z in the process, as the police returned only 30 of 80 hours of tape seized.


Frank Zappa managed to recover some of his possessions before the studio was torn down in 1966.


Frank Zappa accepted, and soon assumed leadership and the role as co-lead singer.


Frank Zappa convinced the other members that they should play his music to increase the chances of getting a record contract.


Frank Zappa had full control over the arrangements and musical decisions and did most overdubs.


Frank Zappa fell in love within "a couple of minutes", and she moved into the house over the summer.


Wilson nominally produced the Mothers' second album Absolutely Free, which was recorded in November 1966, and later mixed in New York, although by this time Frank Zappa was in de facto control of most facets of the production.


Frank Zappa took the opportunity to radically restructure the contents, adding newly recorded, improvised dialogue.


One evening, Frank Zappa managed to entice some US Marines from the audience onto the stage, where they proceeded to dismember a big baby doll, having been told by Frank Zappa to pretend that it was a "gook baby".


Frank Zappa's music was matched with Seeman's animation and the advertisement won a Clio Award for "Best Use of Sound".


Frank Zappa sampled surf music from his Studio Z days in the audio collage Nasal Retentive Caliope Music.


The cover art was provided by Cal Schenkel whom Frank Zappa met in New York.


In 1967 and 1968, Frank Zappa made two appearances with the Monkees.


The first appearance was on an episode of their TV series, "The Monkees Blow Their Minds", where Frank Zappa, dressed up as Mike Nesmith, interviews Nesmith who is dressed up as Frank Zappa.


Frank Zappa felt that audiences failed to appreciate his "electrical chamber music".


In 1969 there were nine band members and Frank Zappa was supporting the group from his publishing royalties whether they played or not.


Frank Zappa often cited the financial strain as the main reason, but commented on the band members' lack of diligence.


Frank Zappa's 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.


Later in 1970, Frank Zappa formed a new version of the Mothers.


On December 4,1971, Frank Zappa suffered his first of two serious setbacks.


Frank Zappa noted that one leg healed "shorter than the other", resulting in chronic back pain.


In December 1972, David Walley published the first biography of Frank Zappa, titled No Commercial Potential.


Frank Zappa was severely critical, calling it "a quickie, paperback, sensational book".


Frank Zappa's first effort was a series of concerts in September 1972 with a 20-piece big band referred to as the Grand Wazoo.


Frank Zappa then formed and toured with smaller groups that variously included Ian Underwood, Ruth Underwood, Sal Marquez, Napoleon Murphy Brock, Bruce Fowler, Tom Fowler, Chester Thompson, Ralph Humphrey, George Duke, and Jean-Luc Ponty.


Frank Zappa released Bongo Fury, which featured a live recording at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin from a tour the same year that reunited him with Captain Beefheart for a brief period.


Frank Zappa was upset with Cohen for signing acts he did not approve.


Litigation with Cohen prevented Frank Zappa having access to any of his previously recorded material during the trials.


Frank Zappa therefore took his personal master copies of the album Zoot Allures directly to Warner, while bypassing DiscReet.


In March 1977 Frank Zappa delivered four albums to Warner to complete his contract.


Also, in 1977 Frank Zappa prepared a four-LP box set called Lather and negotiated distribution with Phonogram Inc for release on the Frank Zappa Records label.


The Lather box set was scheduled for release on Halloween 1977, but legal action from Warner forced Frank Zappa to shelve this project.


In December 1977 Frank Zappa appeared on the Pasadena, California radio station KROQ-FM and played the entire Lather album, while encouraging listeners to make tape recordings of the broadcast.


In December 1976, Frank Zappa appeared as a featured musical guest on the NBC television show Saturday Night Live.


In 1978, Frank Zappa served both as host and musical act on the show, and as an actor in various sketches.


Frank Zappa's band had a series of Christmas shows in New York City in 1976, recordings of which appear on Frank Zappa in New York and on the four-LP Lather project.


Frank Zappa dismissed the criticism by noting that he was a journalist reporting on life as he saw it.


Frank Zappa released two of his most important projects in 1979.


Frank Zappa had been known for his long hair since the mid 1960s, but he had Gail cut it short around August 1979.


Frank Zappa cut ties with Phonogram after the distributor refused to release his song "I Don't Wanna Get Drafted", which was recorded in February 1980.


The album is notable for the presence of guitarist Steve Vai, who joined Frank Zappa's touring band in late 1980.


In 1981, Frank Zappa released three instrumental albums, Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar, Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar Some More, and The Return of the Son of Shut Up 'N Play Yer Guitar, which were initially sold via mail order, but later released through CBS Records due to popular demand.


Frank Zappa later expanded on his television appearances in a non-musical role.


In May 1982, Frank 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".


The material was recorded under a tight schedule with Frank Zappa providing all funding, helped by the commercial success of "Valley Girl".


In 1984 Frank Zappa teamed again with Nagano and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra for a live performance of A Frank Zappa Affair with augmented orchestra, life-size puppets, and moving stage sets.


Frank 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.


Again, Frank Zappa was not satisfied with the performances of his orchestral works, regarding them as under-rehearsed, but in the album liner notes he respectfully thanks Boulez's demands for precision.


Frank Zappa is credited on-screen as "GERALD FIALKA Cool Guy Who Wraps Stuff So It Doesn't Break".


Around 1986, Frank Zappa undertook a comprehensive re-release program of his earlier vinyl recordings.


Frank Zappa personally oversaw the remastering of all his 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s albums for the new digital compact disc medium.


In 1991, Zappa was chosen to be one of four featured composers at the Frankfurt Festival in 1992.


Frank Zappa was approached by the German chamber ensemble Ensemble Modern which was interested in playing his music for the event.


Frank Zappa got along with the musicians, and the concerts in Germany and Austria were set up for later in the year.


Frank Zappa died from prostate cancer on December 4,1993,17 days before his 53rd birthday, at his home with his wife and children by his side.


The general phases of Frank Zappa's music have been variously categorized under experimental rock, jazz, classical, avant-pop, experimental pop, comedy rock, doo-wop, jazz fusion, progressive rock, proto-prog, avant-jazz, and psychedelic rock.


Frank Zappa frequently lampooned musical fads like psychedelia, rock opera and disco.


Frank Zappa's albums make extensive use of segued tracks, breaklessly joining the elements of his albums.


Frank Zappa called it a "conceptual continuity", meaning that any project or album was part of a larger project.


Frank Zappa is widely recognized as one of the most significant electric guitar soloists.


Frank Zappa was further described as using a wide variety of scales and modes, enlivened by "unusual rhythmic combinations".


In New York, Frank Zappa increasingly used tape editing as a compositional tool.


Frank Zappa had begun regularly recording concerts, and because of his insistence on precise tuning and timing, he was able to augment his studio productions with excerpts from live shows, and vice versa.


Frank Zappa opposed military drafts, saying that military service should be voluntary.


Frank Zappa favored capitalism, entrepreneurship, and independent business, stating that musicians could make more from owning their own businesses than from collecting royalties.


Frank Zappa even considered running for president of the United States as an independent.


Frank Zappa recalled his parents being "pretty religious" and trying to make him go to Catholic school despite his resentment.


Frank Zappa felt disgust towards organized religion because he believed that it promoted ignorance and anti-intellectualism.


Frank Zappa held the view that the Garden of Eden story shows that the essence of Christianity is to oppose gaining knowledge.


In early 1990, Frank Zappa visited Czechoslovakia at the request of President Vaclav Havel.


Under pressure from Secretary of State, James Baker, Frank Zappa's posting was withdrawn.


Frank Zappa planned to develop an international consulting enterprise to facilitate trade between the former Eastern Bloc and Western businesses.


Frank 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.


On September 19,1985, Frank 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.


Frank Zappa suggested that record labels were trying to get the bill passed quickly through committees, one of which was chaired by Senator Strom Thurmond, who was affiliated with the PMRC.


Frank Zappa further pointed out that this committee was being used as a distraction from that bill being passed, which would lead only to the benefit of a select few in the music industry.


Frank 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.


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.


Frank Zappa is heard interacting with Senators Fritz Hollings, Slade Gorton and Al Gore.


Frank Zappa was one of the first to try tearing down the barriers between rock, jazz, and classical music.


Frank Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.


Frank Zappa was ranked number 36 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock in 2000.


Contemporary jazz musicians and composers Bobby Sanabria, Bill Frisell and John Zorn are inspired by Frank Zappa, as is funk legend George Clinton.


Scientists from various fields have honored Frank Zappa by naming new discoveries after him.


The distributor of Frank Zappa's recorded output is Universal Music Enterprises.


In June 2022 the Frank Zappa Trust announced that it had sold Frank Zappa's entire catalog to Universal Music, including master tapes, song copyrights and trademarks.