Zappa, Frank (1940-1993), was one of the most creative and versatile personalities in the history of American rock music. Zappa was a composer, bandleader, and guitarist. Although he was one of the major innovators of rock music, he also attempted to blend jazz and classical music. Zappa performed much of his work through his band, the Mothers of Invention, a shifting group of musicians that he led for many years.
Francis Vincent Zappa, Jr., was born in Baltimore, Maryland. At the age of 10, he moved with his family to California. He taught himself to play guitar and became a fan of 1950's rock 'n' roll as well as modern classical music. He especially liked the work of the French-born American composer Edgard Varese. Zappa began performing in cocktail lounges in 1960, and in 1964 he formed the Muthers. The band was later called the Mothers and finally the Mothers of Invention from 1966 until Zappa disbanded the group in 1977.
Zappa composed movie sound tracks and recorded more than 60 albums, beginning with Freak Out (1966). He satirized American life in such songs as "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" and "Plastic People" (both 1967) and was often accused of obscenity. Zappa satirized spoiled teen-aged California girls in "Valley Girls" (1983), which included vocals by his daughter Moon Unit.
Noted French classical conductor-composer Pierre Boulez recorded an album called Boulez Conducts Zappa/The Perfect Stranger (1983) that became an international hit. Zappa won a 1987 Grammy Award for best rock instrumental performance for his album Jazz from Hell. He wrote an autobiography, The Real Frank Zappa Book (1989). Zappa's son Dweezil became a popular rock performer.