Happy Birthday Frank

A big musical birthday this week, one of the Street Parade’s holy trinity figures: ZappaDylanGarcia. Frank Zappa was born Dec. 21 1940 in Baltimore., MD.  Baltimore has just officially named the 21st as Zappa Day. From social commentary and satire, to avant-garde composition, to brilliant guitar work, Zappa’s influence can’t be overstated.  Zappa challenged the status quo on many fronts. As a plainspoken curmudgeon, he confronted just about every group and ism imaginable.  He pioneered the artist-run independent record label, launching his Straight and Bizarre imprints back in 1969 and later founding the Zappa, DiscReet and Barking Pumpkin labels. He mocked middle-class mores, took on racial inequality and discord, and  satirized everything in sight, including disco and new-age movements. He also took on the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), delivering memorable testimony about the First Amendment at a congressional hearing.

With an unswerving conviction, Zappa remained an often brilliant voice of dissent to the end of his career. When the music industry began branding albums with voluntary warnings about offensive content under pressure from the PMRC in the mid-Eighties, Zappa wrote a disclaimer of his own, which he stickered on his releases: “WARNING! This album contains material which a truly free society would neither fear nor suppress. The language and concepts contained herein are guaranteed not to cause eternal torment in the place where the guy with the horns and pointed stick conducts his business. This guarantee is as real as the threats of the video fundamentalists who use attacks on rock music in their attempt to transform America into a nation of check-mailing nincompoops (in the name of Jesus Christ). If there is a hell, its fires wait for them, not us.”

Zappa died in 1992, but certainly not his music.


Frank Zappa


4 Responses to “Happy Birthday Frank”

  1. Roslyn Nelson Says:

    Glenn– You must be The Glenn who taught at the Loft some years back. I was one of your lucky students. You were a really good teacher. I still work off things I learned from you. Thanks!

    • GJF Says:

      Hi Ros, it’s good to hear from you! Been a long time, but I definitely remember you and that class-that was a great group of poets in that class. Generous readers and good writers. Hope the writing and the art are going well.
      Cheers, Glenn

  2. Linda Miller Says:

    Hey Glenn,

    I have to admit, I haven’t visited your site in a while, but I did today, and saw your great Happy Birthday wishes to Frank Zappa, near and dear to my heart. I noticed that you mentioned he’d from Baltimore. Wasn’t sure if you knew that a fan group from eastern europe has “gifted” Baltimore with a Zappa bust. Here’s a summary article from the Baltimore Sun. Be well, many congratulations on the sabbatical, tenure, and funding. Come visit!

    DECEMBER 17, 2009

    Frank Zappa statue to go near Highlandtown library
    So the Public Art Committee finally found a home for that Frank Zappa statue: Outside the Southeast Anchor Library, a branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Highlandtown.

    The bust of Zappa (who was born in Baltimore) will go up sometime next year, according to committee chair Anne Perkins.

    “We think this is a great place for it — a terrific neighborhood” Perkins said. “I think it will be the focal point for a lot of really fun festivals.”

    Here’s a link to the full story.

    At first, I was a little surprised at the site they chose. Highlandtown might get a decent amount of foot traffic, but probably not as much as the other sites they were considering — such as Fells Point.

    And besides the Creative Alliance, Highlandtown really isn’t known for its arts and entertainment..

    Then I spoke with Zappa’s widow, Gail, who cleared things up for me …

    Gail said Zappa would have liked the location, because his mother, Rose Marie, was a librarian. Gail actually lobbied to have the bust placed near a city library.

    “I’m thrilled,” she said. “That’s where he went to school, in the library. The library was a really important place for him in his teen years.”

    I asked her if Zappa would have even wanted a bust of himself anywhere, let alone in Baltimore, and she laughed.

    “It’s the ultimate bust, isn’t it?,” she said. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful bust. I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. It’s stunning. It really represents Frank’s character beautifully.”
    (Pictured is a Zappa statue in Lithuania, similar to the Baltimore statue. AP photo.)

    • GJF Says:

      Hi Linda,
      Thanks for the Zappa article. Very cool.
      I’m hoping to come to Maryland in early summer (you suppose the snow will be gone by then?). Hope we can hook up.

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