Sunday, 4 December 2016

Frank Zappa ( 21/12/40 - 4/12/93) - Social Commentator


Not sure, how, that in the years I've been writing this blog, I have not touched on the work of the late Frank Vincent Zappa, I have been an admirer of his work for a while, having numerous records, dvds by him. Anyway on this day in 1993 this musician and iconclast, who rode to fame in the late 1960s as leader of the eccentric Mothers of Invention and kept on breaking the musical rules, died in Los Angeles, CA of prostate cancer aged 53.
In his 33-year musical career, Zappa proved to be one of the most prolific musician-composers of his era, releasing over 60 albums during his lifetime, almost all of which consisted of original compositions.His work was a frothy stew of '50s doo-wop, rhythm 'n' blues,straight edged rock serious experimental jazz,free-form improvisation, sound experiments, musical virtuosity, and avant-garde classical strains, often heaped high with perverse, often scatological, lyrics.In albums with such far-out titles as "Freak Out," "Lumpy Gravy," "Burnt Weeny Sandwich" and "Weasels Ripped My Flesh," and "Sheik Yerbouti," Over the years, Zappa, whose albums were never huge sellers, sustained a cult following and was admired by legions of  fans worldwide that  ensured the marketability of a seemingly endless stream of eclectic recordings.Best remembered for the mark he made on the experimental rock counter-culture of the late 1960s, his influence extended into the worlds of jazz, classical and electronic music, and his love of experimentation was present in all of them.
His anarchic demeanor, and occasionally juvenile antics, accusations of misogyny were counterbalanced by an increasingly strong sense of social commitment, an individual  who shirked rampant commercialism and embraced nonconformity.In addition to being one of the most prolific and versatile composers of the rock idiom of his time,an incredible artist who produced an insane body of work Zappa he was also an astute and outspoken social and political commentator., a acerbic, prolific agent provocateur beyond categorisation. His music dealing with weighty subjects commenting on societal norms, politics and religion that still resonate in todays social and political climate.
An atheist, who grew up in a religious Catholic household. He said that by the time he was 18, he had “escaped the bondage of being a devout believer.” But the rebellion against religion started long before that. He said,"[My parents] tried to make me go to Catholic school, too. I lasted a very short time. When the penguin came after me with a ruler, I was out of there."He certainly did not have kind words to say about religion, especially the Abrahamic traditions. Just look at some of his  song titles: “The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing,” “Jesus Thinks You’re a Jerk,” “Heavenly Bank Account,” “Dumb All Over.” Zappa’s disgust of religion was rooted in the belief that religion is anti-intellectual, that it promotes ignorance. He said about the story of Adam and Eve,
"What was it that Adam ate that he wasn’t supposed to eat? . . . it was the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The subtle message? “Get smart and I’ll fuck you over–sayeth the Lord.” God is the Smartest–and he doesn’t want any competition."
He was especially critical of religious leaders who he viewed as hypocritical, preaching one thing and practicing another, those who became wealthy off the donations of their followers, and those who use religion to influence political change.Zappa described himself as a Practical Conservative, meaning he wanted small government and lower taxes. He said he understood that there were certain large services that only the federal government could provide, like national defense and large infrastructure projects, but that these services should be administered with the most efficiency and at the lowest price possible. He advocated for elimination of income taxes and a greatly reduced role for the federal government.
He was especially critical of the Reagan administration for, among other things, what he saw as its pandering to the Christian right. he was a libertarian in many ways.Zappa was skeptical of authority and indoctrination, and was critical of the mainstream media.He was also fierce defender of free speech and waged a public battle against the Parents Music Resource Center and its proposed ratings system, he testified before a congressional committee in 1985, voicing his opposition to legislation that would require labeling of music to warn parents of explicit content. In his prepared statement, about how such regulations are a threat to the First Amendment, Zappa said, " The establishment of a rating system, voluntary or otherwise, opens the door to an endless parade of Moral Quality Control Programs based on “Things Certain Christians Don’t Like.” What if the next bunch of Washington Wives demands a large yellow “J” on all material written or performed by Jews, in order to save helpless children from exposure to concealed Zionist doctrine?"
Zappa clearly wanted government out of all business except that which only government can provide, and he was willing to attack both political parties when he thought the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights were threatened. But his faith in the political machine wasn’t exactly resolute. As Zappa put it,"Government is the Entertainment division of the military-industrial complex"
In 1986, Frank Zappa engaged in a fiery debate about dirty lyrics and censorship based on religious morality in this classic clip from CNN’s “Crossfire.”Debating with John Lofton, conservative columnist for the Washington Times, Zappa noted that:The biggest threat to America today is not communism. It’s moving America toward a fascist theocracy. Everything that’s happened under the Reagan Administration is steering us right down that pipe.
Asked later in the interview to give “one example of a fascist theocracy” by co-host Tom Braden, Zappa replied: When you have a government that prefers a certain moral code derived from a certain religion, and that moral code turns into legislation to suit one certain religious point of view, and if that code happens to be very very right wing, almost toward Attila the Hun…
Lofton responded: “Well then you are an anarchist. Every form of civil government is based on some kind of morality Frank,” but Zappa set him straight, curtly remarking: “Morality in terms of behavior, not in terms of theology! You can watch the exchange, below,

Zappa defines Fascist theocracy

 For more of this stuff, I recommend checking out Thorsten Shutte’s new documentary, Eat that Question: Frank Zappa in his own words, an intimate encounter with the iconoclastic composer and musician  with rare archival footage revealing a provocative 20th-century musical genius and fierce public intellectual whose worldview resonates into the present day and beyond.Frank Zappa’s diverse work throughout his career as a musician and activist all combine to form an image of Zappa as a confirmed iconoclast who used his talents as composer, guitarist, entertainer, band leader, and social commentator to skew the status quo, illuminate hypocrisy, and slaughter sacred cows. The legacy of Frank Zappa will long be remembered.However for a nonconformist composer, so vehemently opposed to commercialization, it is kind of ironic though that Zappa’s image is now preserved in brand-name aspic by the strenuously protective Zappa Family Trust.

 Eat that Question: Frank Zappa in his own words, Official trailer 2016

Frank Zappa - Absolutely Free

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