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.