Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in his Own Words *** (2016)

Eat That Question looks back at the career of Frank Zappa (1940-1993) through skillful use of archival footage, consisting mostly of interviews and excerpts from his live performances. Zappa was known more for his personality and battles with censors instead of his music (which rarely got radio play.)  Classically trained, Zappa's ability compose music put him way ahead of his contemporaries. His music combined elements of classical, jazz, fusion, doo wop, and noise rock - releasing over 80 albums of original material.

With his band The Mothers of Invention, Zappa made performance art a major part of his act.  His music was loaded with social commentary on all sorts of topics, breaking all sorts of barriers.  

Zappa's full of surprises. Despite his outlandish appearance and unconventional music he never drank alcohol or abused drugs (more of a cigarettes and coffee guy). When touring he would dismiss band members who took drugs.  Often grouped with the counterculture, Zappa actually despised hippies, viewing them as conformists. In the 1980s, Zappa led the fight against Tipper Gore's attempt to censor rock and rap albums.

Later in life Zappa got actively involved in politics.  In Czechoslovakia he served as a cultural ambassador and in 1992 he planned a run for the presidency until a cancer diagnosis sidetracked him.

Zappa passed away way too early at age 52, God Knows what he would make of America at the current moment, but voices more like him are desperately needed. Eat the Question is an excellent introduction to his work.  Don't miss his appearance on the CNN show Crossfire.

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