US rock musician, bandleader, and composer. His crudely satirical songs, as in Joe's Garage (1980), deliberately bad taste, and complex orchestral and electronic compositions make his work hard to categorize. His group the Mothers of Invention 1965–73 was part of the 1960s avant-garde, and the Mothers' hippie parody We're Only in It for the Money (1967) was popular with its target.
Born in Baltimore, Zappa grew up in southern California. He studied both modern classical and popular music; his first recorded compositions were film scores and a doo-wop song, ‘Memories of El Monte’, for the group the Penguins. The Mother's first album was Freak Out! (1966), which mixed social protest and tape montage; later work featured, variously, a 50-piece orchestra, 1950s pastiche, dirty jokes, and jazz-rock fusion. Zappa's first solo album was the critically acclaimed Hot Rats (1969). With and without the Mothers he released more than 50 albums.
From the late 1960s Zappa was also involved in record-label management, promoting and producing other acts, most notably the seminal blues guitarist and singer Captain Beefheart, making semidocumentary records (such as An Evening with Wild Man Fisher, capturing the torment of a schizophrenic busker) and films (such as 200 Motels 1971). He was a vociferous opponent of US initiatives to censor pop lyrics. In 1989 he visited Czechoslovakia's new president, the long-time Zappa fan Václav Havel, and advised the Czech government on cultural liaison with the West. An asteroid, first observed by Czechoslovakia's Klet Observatory, was named Zappafrank in his honour in 1994. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
Zappa, Frank (Francis Vincent)