Who was Frank Zappa?
Frank Zappa was an incredibly prolific man with an enormous skill set and limitless talent. He was a bandleader, composer, filmmaker, author, studio engineer, record producer, political figure, multi-instrumentalist, businessman, and more. If you want to find out more about the man and his life, check out his autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book.
If you don’t know anything about Frank Zappa, here’s an intro video I put together. It’s the first video I made for the site, so it could use some improvement, but it’s something!
About his music
Much of FZ’s music borrows from blues, rock, doo-wop, and motown, but his discography is quite diverse. He was hugely inspired by 20th century composers Edgar Varese and Igor Stravinsky. He wrote tons of instrumental music, including complex orchestral works, albums with electric guitar solos over all manners of chord progressions, and several extended works of spliced talking, singing, instrumentation, and sound effects.
Some of my favorite FZ albums are:
- Freak Out
- We’re Only In It For The Money
- Hot Rats
- Apostrophe (‘)
- Roxy & Elsewhere
- One Size Fits All
- Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar
- The Yellow Shark
FZ used every weird music trick in the book and even invented some of his own. He was known to hire virtuosic musicians in his bands who were expected to play any song in any time signature in any genre. Notable members include: Steve Vai, Adrian Belew, Vinnie Colaiuta, Mike Keneally, Chad Wackerman, George Duke, Tommy Mars, Morgan Agren, and many others.
Here’s an interview with Steve Vai about his audition for Frank’s band.
The post-Zappa era
Though Frank passed away in 1993 at the age of 52 after suffering from prostate cancer, his son Dweezil has picked up the musical torch and is touring the world with former Zappa band members in a show called Zappa Plays Zappa. It’s a wonderful tribute act in which they have typically performed classic Zappa albums in their entirety followed by an extended set of music. It’s very ambitious and Dweezil is doing an incredible job.
I absolutely love this interview he did with the Today Show in 1993, shortly before his death. Despite the interviewer’s inability to ask meaningful questions, Frank’s answers are wonderful and timeless.