Frank Zappa

Dweezil Zappa continues the Zappa on Zappa Tour, and I thought this would be a great time to comment on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s most vexing inductee, his father, Frank Zappa.

Zappa is singular. There is no one like him before or since. His output is staggering in terms of volume and breadth and, at times, difficult to digest. He composed avant-garde classical music and wrote the most ridiculous lyrics in pop history. He also played a mean electric guitar, which, oddly, not all guitar players know. He shreds.

He is also one of the most articulate defenders of the right to free speech, and many remember his appearance before congress, which still makes the rounds on youtube. Frank was always a compelling guest on a talk or news show. He spoke his mind, and he said it clearly.

In many ways, Frank the man, with his signature Van Dyke mustache and complex personality, overshadowed the music. I know music fans who have never heard any Frank Zappa. This is a shame. He is, after all, in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Eagle Rock Entertainment Classic Albums series is a great place to start for those curious or a fan. This series of behind-the-scenes programs think VH1’s Behind the Music – only for musicians, is mostly excellent. This Zappa Disc is one of the best. Be sure to check out Apostrophe/Over-Night Sensation.

In this disc, we get insight into two of his most commercially successful records from the people who made them. The complexity of the music and the musicianship required to navigate it are all apparent. So too, is the reverence shared by all interviewed. While he may have been a taskmaster as a bandleader, no one seemed to mind, as they became better musicians as a result. According to keyboardist George Duke, “working and touring with Frank, some of the most fun days of my life!”

All the talking heads shed light on the man while bringing out the subtleties of the music. The remote playback of Tina Turner and the Ikettes is particularly fascinating. Comments from guitar god Steve Vai will make a guitarist want to revisit some of Franks’s excellent guitar work. Throughout the disc, Dweezil comes across best as a son in awe of his dad. Who better ensure his legacy?

If you have ever wondered about Frank Zappa, you might pick up that DVD. You might also pick up one of those CDs (One Size Fits All or Joe’s Garage). You might also check out Dweezil on tour.

Frank, we’ll never see the likes of him again.

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