If there is one sentence that best describes Frank Zappa, it will probably be his own sentence:
"To me absurdity is the only reality".
Frank Zappa is a unique and groundbreaking musician, the only rule he lives by (at least in the musical context), is that in music "there are no rules". He combined styles, shattered musical boundaries and broke conventions, like no one else has done in the modern age of music.
So let's tell you some interesting facts about this musical genius:
1. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, on December 21, 1940 as Frank Vincent Zappa.
2. The first instrument he ever played starting at the age of 12, was drums, on which he learned to play by himself, only from hearing. He joined his first band as a drummer when he was in high school.
3. While playing drums, Zappa listened to jazz, blues, Doo-wop and modern classical music.
4. His favorite artist in his youth was composer Edgard Varese, who greatly influenced Zappa's musical perception.
5. He attended the same high school of Don Glen Vliet who would later adopt the stage name Captain Beefheart. They became interested in the same kind of music and became close friends.
6. He only acquired his first guitar when he was 18. He did not know how to play chords, but began to explore the melodic side of the instrument. This fact will have a great effect on Zappa's playing.
7. At the age of 19 he left home and started studying in college, but dropped out after one semester and started working on casual jobs.
8. His first professional recordings were of two soundtracks for the low budget films "The World's Greatest Sinner", from 1962 and "Run Home Slow", from 1965.
9. In 1963 he appeared on Steve Elm's talk show playing on bicycles from which he made sounds using a wheel as a percussion and string and a handlebar as a brass instrument.
10. In 1964, Zappa began working in a recording studio in the town of "Cucamonga" in California, where he learned various recording techniques that would be used by him later in his musical career. He later bought the studio and changed its name to "Studio Z".
11. Following a local newspaper article about Zappa and the studio, describing him as the king of "Cucamonga" films, a police detective approached him with an offer to record a pornographic audio tape for a bachelor party. Zappa forged an erotic tape, and when he intended to hand it over to the police officer he was arrested and charged with conspiracy to carry out a pornography crime and was even sentenced to six months probation, of which 10 days he was actually imprisoned.
12. In 1965 he was asked by singer Ray Collins to replace his guitarist in the band "the Soul Giants". This band would later change its name to "The Mothers" and later to "The Mothers of Invention".
13. The band's first album "Freak Out" was released in 1966 and became the second double rock album in music history. The first was Bob Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde", which was released a few weeks earlier. The album is also considered by many to be the first concept album in the history of music.
14. In 1967 Zappa released two albums - "Absolutely Free" along with "The Mothers of Invention" and "Lumpy Gravy" which was his first solo album.
15. His 1968 album "We're Only in It for the Money" included an alternative cover to the album cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", while the album title was a kind of "sting" on "the Beatles". The album's release was delayed by 5 months due to copyright issues related to the Beatles' album cover.
16. That same year a fan named Raven came to his house with a gun. Zappa was unmoved and took him for a walk on a nearby lake as he persuaded him to throw the gun into the lake as part of a cleansing process. The fan threw the gun into the water and Zappa refused to report it to the police.
17. In the same year Zappa set up two record labels for signing young artists. The first band he signed through Straight Records was Alice Cooper, who signed a three-album recording contract.
18. In 1969, after two more studio albums with "The Mothers of Invention", Zappa decided to disband it since it was not financially viable. Zappa went on to assist nine players from the band from album's sales royalties.
19. That same year Zappa released one of his most acclaimed solo albums, "Hot Rats" in which most of the tracks are instrumental. The album includes one of his well-known works - "Peaches en Regalia" and features Captain Beefheart singing in the only vocal track of the album- "Willie the Pimp".
20. During a performance by Zappa at a casino in Monterey, Switzerland, held on December 4, 1971, one of the fans fired a flare gun that hit the ceiling of the concert hall and caused a fire. The crowd managed to evacuate unscathed but all of Zappa's equipment was destroyed in the fire.
21. Members of the band "Deep Purple" were present and were supposed to record the album "Machine Head" there the next day. Bassist Roger Glover, who saw the fire and the smoke billowing over Lake Geneva, conceived the sentence that would also become Deep Purple's immortal song "Smoke On the Water".
22. 6 days later, on December 10, 1971, another disaster befell Zappa. He was seriously injured after being pushed furiously during a performance at the Rainbow Club in London, by a fan. Zappa fell a few feet into the orchestra shaft and suffered head injuries, fractures all over his body, including his back and neck, and a groin drop that caused a change in his voice.
23. After a very long recovery period, Zappa put together a new version of the band "the Mothers" and in 1973 recorded two of his most successful albums, "Over-Nite Sensation" and "Apostrophe (')", which is still considered his best-selling album.
24. In 1979 he released the triangular album "Joe's Garage" - a concept album which is a kind of rock opera, that tells a crazy and imaginative story that includes harsh criticism against American culture.
25. In 1984 he released an album called Francesco Zappa in which all the pieces are performed in an instrument called Synclavier and all the melodies in it are by the 18th century Italian composer Francesco Zappa.
26. His album "Jazz from Hell" won the Parental Advisory sticker, even though it was an instrumental album.
27. In 1986 he played a criminal named Mr. Frankie in an episode of the "Miami Vice" series.
28. Throughout his career Zappa has not used drugs.
29. His son Dweezil got his name from the nickname given by Zappa to his wife's oddly shaped toe.
30. In April 1991, Zappa announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States.
31. Unfortunately that year he found out he had prostate cancer and had to leave the race.
32. He passed away on December 4, 1993 at his home with his wife and four children around him.
33. Zappa was a particularly prolific artist and during his lifetime released about 60 albums which he produced almost all by himself. After his death, his heirs released another 50 albums.
34. He has also produced many artists including: Alice Cooper, Captain Beefheart and Grand Funk.
35. Believe it or not, Zappa ranks 36th on VH1's list of VH1's 100 Greatest Artists.
36. In 2011 he was ranked 22nd on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
37. In 1995 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
38. In 1997 he received a Lifetime Grammy Award.
39. Despite this, Zappa has never had commercial success. In fact, his only "hit" to make the list of the 40 greatest in the United States, was "Valley Girl" from 1982, that featured his daughter Moon Unit who was then 13 years old.
40. The "Zappa" clubs chain in Israel, which includes 11 sites where live performances take place, is named after him.