Frank Zappa: 1941-1993

By Scene

Scene, 9 December 1993

In the dictionary, the word "iconoclast" should have a photo of Frank Zappa next to it. If any one rock musician ever embodied the definition of that word, it was Zappa, who died of prostate cancer last Saturday, December 4, at the age of 52. Through his years as the leader of the Mothers Of Invention to his more recent solo projects and well-publicized stance against the labeling of rock records by Tipper Gore and the PMRC, Zappa communicated with broad strokes of satire and acerbic wit.

But it wasn't publicity or fame that Frank Vincent Zappa was all about. In fact, he never missed a chance to lampoon society's "plastic values" and even more the hippies' brand of utopianism. FREAK OUT, the Mothers' 1966 debut album, is considered by many rock historians to be as important an album as Pink Floyd's DARK SIDE OF THE MOON or the Who's WHO'S NEXT, and Zappa and the Mothers even went so far as to satirize the Beatles' sacrosanct SGT. PEPPER with WE'RE ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY the same year.

Bruce Conforth, former director of curatorial and educational affairs for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame And Museum, says, "There are only two people in rock who I consider to have been geniuses: John Lennon and Frank Zappa. In years to come, his music will become more appreciated. He will be considered to be in the same class as Edgard Varèse as far as great American composers. His death is a great tragedy for rock music."