Saturday, April 11, 2009


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Frank Vincent Zappa (1940-1993) combined the sacred and the profane as a musician, songwriter, composer, bandleader, guitar-player, weirdo, and outspoken critic of mindless censorship in a free society.

Frank Zappa was born in Baltimore on December 21, 1940 to Francis Zappa (born in Partinico, Sicily) who was of Greek-Arab descent, and Rose Marie Colimore who was three-quarters Italian and one-quarter French. His father was a chemist and mathematician in the defense industry, and the Zappas moved around the country as the old man worked in various arsenals and chemical warfare facilities, finally skipping around California--Monterey, Claremont, El Cajon, and San Diego--where Frank joined his first band, The Ramblers, at Mission Bay High School.

The Zappa Family

By 1956, the family had moved to Lancaster, in the Mojave Desert near Edwards Air Force Base. Zappa continued devouring music. He soaked up avant-garde composers Stravinsky and Varese, old fashioned R and B, early rock and roll, and pachuco Do Wop bands. He met Don Vliet at Antelope Valley High School and they became friends--Vliet of course later recorded under the name Captain Beefheart, though he wasn't actually a captain and his heart was almost certainly human. Around then, Zappa played drums for The Blackouts, a racially mixed band that played blues and R and B. Zappa graduated from AVHS, and would later thank two of his high school music teachers on "Freak Out!" (1966) the first album recorded with the group that made him famous, The Mothers of Invention.

thanks for letting me sign your yearbook, Frank

Zappa at 22 on the Steve Allen Show: experimental music on a bicycle

To quote the Wicky, "His own heterogeneous ethnic background, and the diverse social and cultural mix in and around greater Los Angeles, were crucial in the formation of Zappa as a practitioner of underground music and of his later distrustful and openly critical attitude towards "mainstream" social, political and musical movements."

Today, we celebrate Frank Zappa--and Easter--with this 1988 performance of his beautiful composition, "Watermelon in Easter Hay."


Anonymous said...

Zappa was one in a million--one in billion--how many people on the planet? One Zappa. Do the math.

Bob Rini said...

When I last checked, at 2:43 PST, there were 6,788,140,998 people on the planet Earth.

The number increases every fraction of a second.

So Zappa was one on nearly seven billion--and that doesn't even count the dead and gone.

You can get an accurate count at this website: