The incomparable Frank Zappa left the world 29 years ago today and took with him a large swath of the cool, the weird, and the muddle that music so sorely needs
"There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life." - Frank Zappa
Every once in a while a person comes along who just doesn't seem to fit in...anywhere. Take any type of personality, belief system, worldview, or musical preference and you'll usually find an assortment of folks who fall in line with similar views, but not Zappa.
It would be wrong to pigeonhole Frank Zappa as a musician and nothing else. Although he's best known for his music, I believe that was just his delivery system for what he needed to put out into the world. Much like the way George Carlin used the title "comedian" to mask his real occupation as a modern-day philosopher, Zappa used the guitar as his pathway to bigger topics.
Frank Zappa has no musical genre, he is one.
Never commercially successful, Zappa's music, more likely his approach to and thought process pertaining to music, influenced countless artists in every genre imaginable. Among those who have publicly credited Frank Zappa as a musical influence are people as diverse as:
Jimmy Hendrix, Kraftwerk, Steve Vai, System of a Down, Paul McCartney, Primus, Black Sabbath, George Clinton, Brian Eno, and countless jazz, classical, and avant-garde artists.
Influence can be strange and complicated at times but you always know when it's being enacted. Zappa's free-thinking personality and unabashed outspokenness should theoretically influence all artists because pure honesty, and not acceptance, should be at the core of all artistic endeavors.
Speaking your mind and trying to work outside of societal norms when it comes to making popular music is difficult when trying to become commercially successful at the same time. It's a dilemma artists have faced for generations and will always face until the end of time.
We wouldn't have a music industry if everyone was Frank Zappa but that's ok. We don't need everyone to be one thing...that's exactly what Zappa was saying. Be yourself at all costs. He was able to do it and those he influenced took enough of his teachings and incorporated them into their own art at a pace and designation that worked for them.
On December 4, 1993, Frank Zappa died of prostate cancer ending a life and career of significant influence and hard-to-understand, yet sought-after weirdness.
Zappa's music isn't for everyone and he'd certainly cop to that. Liking his music though is far less important than respecting and admiring his prolific output and direct and honest takes on everything life had to offer. He often said things the rest of us were thinking and if we weren't, we did think of them soon after hearing his words.
There will never be anyone quite like Frank Zappa again.