Frank Zappa

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Zappa in Oslo, 1977-01-16.
God, guns, and freedom
U.S. Politics
Icon politics USA.svg
Starting arguments over Thanksgiving dinner
Persons of interest
Time to put on some
Icon music.png
Frank governs with Elmore James on his left and Stravinsky on his right.
—Tom Waits, 2005[1]
Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.
—Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa (December 21, 1940–December 4, 1993) was an American guitarist, composer, independent music producer, film director, and cult figure. Politically, he was an outspoken advocate of freedom of expression, and a vocal opponent of organized religion, censorship, authoritarianism, fascism, and the PMRC — the latter of which was headed by then-Senator Al Gore's wife, Tipper Gore, at the time.


General positions[edit]

  • Zappa predicted that the GOP's influence on the United States would eventually lead America to a fascist theocracy & far-right nationalism. [2][3][4]
The biggest threat to America today is not communism. It’s moving America toward a fascist theocracy. And everything that’s happened under the Reagan Administration is steering us right down that pipe. (...) When you have a government that prefers a certain moral code derived from a certain religion, and that moral code turns into legislation to suit one certain religious point of view, and if that code happens to be very very right-wing, almost toward Attila the Hun-
What has happened to the presidency as an institution in the United States is a disaster. It’s not a matter of conservative versus liberal, it’s a matter of fascist versus freedom.
  • Frank supported civil rights, the songs Uncle Remus and Trouble Every Day criticized sensationalist journalism, civil unrest, racism, and the various difficulties to achieving equal civil rights, within contemporary American society. The song Uncle Remus also suggests that class and race are connected.
I'll go to Beverly Hills

Just before dawn An' knock those little jockeys Off the rich people's lawn An' before they get up

I'll be gone, I'll be gone

He also added that the writing of "Uncle Remus" wasn't exactly from the viewpoint of a black person.

"It's not exactly from the point of view of a black person. I don't think that a black person would actually write that song. It's not exactly . . . . there are subtle differences in point of view in there. I think that it's something that should have been said. If you've ever seen these little jockeys on the lawn. . . They've had it coming for a long time."
  • Frank believed that the recreational use of drugs should be legalized, even though he personally disapproved of such.[5]
  • Frank strongly advised anyone who was old enough to register and vote, to vote.[6][7]
  • Frank Zappa was pro-choice.

This should not be seen as a matter only affecting women's rights, the matter of choice is something basic to be an American, when someone is anti-choice they are anti-American. It should be clear from recent events that the enemy America must face is not the Communists over there. It is those deranged right-wing lunatics right here In America. Make no mistake about this those people you see on the freeway with the fish on the back of the car that's the enemy, and if you lose this one, you lose America. this is not just about abortion you can't let these lunatic's, change the way things work around here. I hope that everyone who is here today is registered, and applies that litmus test to any candidate that asks for your vote, are you pro-choice? Not just about abortion, but do you want to leave America as a place where you can have a choice, where you can decide what you want to do with your life. Get the government out of your bedroom, out of your underpants, and put em back to work where they belong. I understand they are doing voter registration today, please take advantage of that and don't be afraid to stand up to the people with the fish on the back of the car.

Now I've been thinking of doing this for quite some time, and I don't know if this is really the right time or place to it, but I'm going to take a chance I would like to leave you all with a prayer, because when you get right down to it anybody can pray, now all those other guys are praying so let's pray just for a minute repeat after me. Dear sweet Jesus doesn't listen to those other guys they are not Christians they are practicing witchcraft, not long ago they prayed to you and demanded the death of a supreme court justice official, what's that got to do with Christianity huh? Ok Jesus we know you're listening to us because we are the good guys, thank you very much and good night.

  • Zappa often advocated the legalization of prostitution. [8]
  • Despite being a constitutional fundamentalist, Frank did not see the Founding Fathers in any high regard.
  • Zappa was against the excessive funding of the military, seeing it as a waste of resources.

I would cut it a lot. Because one of the things that are grossly wasted in the expenditure … the expenditures now is – and you can see what's happening with these base closings that everybody is worried about, ah – … the size of the military it's too large. You don't want to have an enormous military unless you're expecting to go out and conquer other people's countries. The idea of national defense should be structured in a way that it defends this country rather than being used as a mechanism to enforce bad foreign policy.


Some of his lyrics were politically incorrect, leading to some of Frank's fans distancing themselves a bit from Frank.[9] Starting with the anti-establishment/anti-war zeitgeist of the 1960s, the message of his music changed over time, criticizing the United States government, religious conservatism, and televangelists. Frank generally evaded questions about lyric content, stating he thinks his lyrics contain valid criticisms or mockery of people.

Accusations of racism[edit]

The Anti-Defamation League asked Frank to apologize for his song Jewish Princess, due to its content listing out various stereotypes of Jewish women, Frank refused, saying that he demanded an apology for being accused of anti-Semitism.[10] Later he made the song "Catholic girls" as a response to the allegations against him.

They just wanted to give the impression that here, in the world of rock, was this rabid anti-Semite who was besmirching the fine reputation of everybody of the Jewish faith. Well, I didn't make up the idea of a Jewish princess. They exist, so I wrote a song about them. If they don't like it, so what? Italians have princesses, too.

Acusations of homophobia[edit]

He was also accused of homophobia due to the songs He's so gay and Broken hearts are for assholes (among several others); however, Frank categorically denied this.

Some people miss the joke. In general, I was a convenient enemy and they could get exposure for their causes by coming after me. But I'm not antigay. When Ross Perot announced he was running for president, I wanted him to choose Barney Frank as a vice-presidential candidate. He is one of the most impressive guys in Congress. He is a great model for young gay men.

Criticism of the Women's liberation movement and accusations of misogyny[edit]

Frank was a self-described "sexual libertarian",[11] who shied away from calling himself anti-feminist,[12] yet he was also opposed to full-throated support of what was called, "women's liberation", in the second half of the 20th century. He seems to state he thought women were already liberated, and that the only women who needed liberation were the more old-fashioned ones.[13]

You know what's funny about Women's Lib? Women don't need to be liberated. I think ladies do. There should be Ladies Liberation. I think the women should get together and liberate the ladies. Take the white gloves off them and straighten them out.

That being said, he thought the women's liberation movement was not ultimately bad, but just inconsequential and a temporary hobby for women.

Furthermore, he's stated that he thought both men and women, for the most part, were stupid (something that is often misinterpreted by his critics).[14][15]

[Women's liberation] is just a fad also. This is not to say it's bad if it keeps them off the street, keeps them occupied.[...] Some women are very badly suited to being in a home, some should be in a factory, or in a library as a librarian, or even doing something more exciting, like showbusiness [...] I hate to think of women as a big group because you can't judge them that way. But in most instances, I find out that they're just really stupid people who just happen to wear dresses.
A young lady has felt that my treatment of women in my lyrics and social comments has not been particularly positive, and there's no reason why it should be. You should take your lumps along with everybody else because women do stupid fucking things just like the guys do.


Frank's album, "Thing-Fish", and his song, "Bobby Brown" were more pointed screeds against women's liberation. Both works implied feminism would lead to homosexuality, and male incontinence. A well-known quote from the song, "Bobby Brown", goes:

Women's liberation came creeping all across the nation

I tell you, people, I was not ready When I fucked this dyke by the name of Freddy

She made a little speech then Oh, she tried to make me say when

She had my balls in her vice but she left my dick I guess it's still the dong, but now it shoots too quick.

In response to feminist criticism, Frank said[17]

I've been approached by Women's Liberation types and criticized about my lyrics and all I tell them is get fucked.

There was not much public outrage over Frank's music at the time, as Frank had the most radio airplay in countries that did not speak English. For example, "Bobby Brown". became a hit in 1980s Finland, with people considering it a love song, due to not understanding the English lyrics.



See the main article on this topic: PMRC
Frank Zappa's letter to Ronald Reagan, regarding the PMRC

Zappa testified before the U.S. Senate in a 1985 hearing about his concerns regarding the potential risks of having a mandatory "explicit lyrics" warning label on records and tapes, as it would establish a dangerous precedent in violation of the First Amendment. As such, he was an outspoken critic of the PMRC, and any other legislation that resembled it.[18][19] Eventually the RIAA agreed to voluntarily place the warning labels on records, thus preventing the need for any government regulations, but Zappa did not like that either, believing it to be just as bad. For a while in the 1980s and 90s, tapes and CDs featuring Zappa's music lacked the warning label. Interestingly enough, Zappa's 1986 album 'Jazz From Hell' is the only instrumental album since the hearings to carry the RIAA Parental Advisory sticker, due to some stores (allegedly Fred Meyer) objecting to some of the song titles:[20]

The PMRC proposal is an ill-conceived piece of nonsense that fails to deliver any real benefits to children, infringes the civil liberties of people who are not children, and promises to keep the courts busy for years dealing with the interpretational and enforcemental problems inherent in the proposal's design. It is my understanding that in law, First Amendment issues are decided with a preference for the least restrictive alternative. In this context, the PMRC's demands are the equivalent of treating dandruff by decapitation … The establishment of a rating system, voluntary or otherwise, opens the door to an endless parade of moral quality control programs based on things certain Christians do not like. What if the next bunch of Washington wives demands a large yellow "J" on all material written or performed by Jews, in order to save helpless children from exposure to concealed Zionist doctrine?

Listen to the "Congress Shall Make No Law..." album for the discussion in the Senate hearing, as well as his thoughts on the PMRC outside of the Senate.

Cultural Ambassador of Czechoslovakia[edit]

In January 1990, Frank was invited to become the "cultural ambassador of Czechoslovakia" by Václav Havel (he was regarded by members of the Velvet Revolution as a symbol of freedom & rebellion due to his music previously being banned by the ruling communist party).

Party Politics[edit]

The time of the 1988 US party political primaries.[21] Pat Robertson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan were favorite political targets of Frank. Two live albums, Broadway the Hard Way and Frank Zappa in New York, are good showcases of his politically-informed songs. His snark was not restricted to Republicans; Democrats like Jesse Jackson were also targets. He considered running for president in the 1980s — the cause he championed was democracy.

Political ideology/stances[edit]

As he got older, Zappa became more socially conservative, explicitly described himself as a capitalist, tried to portray himself as a nuclear family figure, and self-described as a "libertarian on many issues".[22] Later in life, he relayed that he was a registered Democrat[23] with a fondness for certain figures like Mario Cuomo and Pete du Pont.

Zappa was also a notable example of an artist who desired to be judged on his works, rather than on image or categorization. He never made any Sexiest Man Alive rankings, except maybe his own.

An example of Zappa's more libertarian tendencies would be his thoughts on the non-aggression-principle.

The most important thing to do in your life is to not interfere with somebody else's life.

- Frank Zappa (in response to Joe Walsh asking FZ what the meaning of life was.) The Howard Stern Show, 09/23/1987

The thing about drugs is this ... the Libertarians kind of have the right idea on this: Basically, their theory is that you own your own body, and the government should get out of your face. But, you also do not have the right to harm other people or to impinge on their rights or space. So, let's apply that to drugs . If you want to get wrecked, and you could afford it, and you have a place to do it where the results of your behavior can't harm another person, I don't see any reason why you shouldn't be allowed to do it.

Views on Government[edit]

He was against the application of a smaller government due to the possibility of having such a system being easily exploited by various demagogues. [24]

Frank believed that there were a lot of issues with the way the U.S government was being operated:

"I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Politics Is the Entertainment Branch of Industry.

C-SPAN's coverage of governmental proceedings is wonderful. Caution! Buffoons on the Hill! Wallowing in blabber and spew, regiments of ex-lawyers and used-car salesman attempt to distract us from the naughty little surprises served up by deregulated corporate America. Has it become impossible to govern the U.S. by reason or logic? America under Reagan saw the rise of governance by trickery, fear, disinformation, and superstition. Oh Jesus! Here comes those fucking balloons again." –Frank Zappa

from "The Real Frank Zappa Book", 1989.

Revolution, Freedom & democracy[edit]
I believe that people have a right to decide their own destinies; people own themselves. I also believe that in a democracy, government exists because (and only as long as) individual citizens give it a "temporary license to exist"- in exchange for a promise that it will behave itself. In a democracy you own the government- it doesn't own you. Along with this comes a responsibility to ensure that individual actions, in the pursuit of personal destiny, do not threaten the well-being of others while the "pursuit" is in progress.
—Frank Zappa
The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.
—Frank Zappa

Frank advocated for an American revolution (mainly because he thought America was an Authoritarian country), without violent protests, as he saw them as ineffective and harmful.[25] [26]

Americans like to talk about (or be told about) Democracy but, when put to the test, usually find it to be an ‘inconvenience.’ We have opted instead for an authoritarian system disguised as a Democracy....
—Frank Zappa, from The Real Frank Zappa Book, 1989.

Frank believed that capitalism was a more favorable alternative compared to its competition.

I'm interested in the capitalistic way of life, and the reason I like it better than anything else I've seen so far is that competition produces results.

Frank also strongly proposed to "tax the churches".[27]

Criticisms of Supply-side economics[edit]
See the main article on this topic: Supply-side economics
You have a bunch of people now who are homeless, these are whole families of people who are homeless, we never had that problem before we used to have hobos, we had bums, we had whinos, but we didn't have whole families with no place to live and nothing to eat, and we got one guy to thank for it, and his name is Ronald Reagan. These people who are in the streets right now with no life support system, they're there because of something called voodoo economics; Ronald Reagan leaves office, with a big fanfare, and all of his friends get together and buy him a 2 million dollar house in Beverly Hills, so this means he's not spending to much time at the ranch at Sandra Barba anymore I think he oughta at least since it's his fault, let them move to Sandra Barba.
—Frank Zappa
the strongest defense any nation can have is a robust economy. What is that? Have we ever really seen one? The trickle-downers think it's 'robust' when the guys in the Fortune 500 clean up. A nation is really strong when everybody's got a piece of the action. Everybody.
—Frank Zappa
The Education system[edit]
you have to teach people basic things that they will need in order to function normally, forget about achieving greatness, or even competing with Japan and Germany. Just to function, how are you going to do it if people can’t read, refuse to read, and are so adapted to receiving data from optical and audio sources. I think you have to meet them halfway and install equipment into classrooms that are going to be able to deliver data into the language that the kids already understand. Costs money. And when you’ve got a state like California, with such a huge educational system willing to take up the twelve billion dollar deficit out of the schools, it also tells you something about the parents that would allow that to happen. Because obviously the parents don’t give a fuck, ’cause they didn’t enjoy school that much themselves. And giving the choice between paying more taxes and just hoping that it gets better and letting the “education President” take care of it, I mean, everybody is sticking their head in the sand.
—Frank Zappa

He wanted to cut any further spending on the military, and put that money in the educational system.

Law enforcement & Crime[edit]
See the main article on this topic: Law enforcement
I will love the police as they kick the shit out of me on the street
—"Who needs the peace corps", Frank Zappa
The United States is a nation of laws, badly written and randomly enforced.
—Frank Zappa
Larry Rogak: In your opinion, has the political climate in this country in the time that you've observed it really become more liberal, or do you think that for the extra rights we seem to have today we've given up something? Do you agree with one of my professors when he suggests that the Supreme Court recognizes no absolute rights but only conditional rights which must bow in the face of an overriding state interest? For example, when Japanese-Americans were placed in concentration camps [during World War II] even though none had been accused or tried for any crime?

Frank Zappa: You have to understand that the law is here only to help out the rich people. It's always been that way and I doubt it's ever going to change. Not just in this country but in everybody's country. The law is here to serve the interests of rich people.

Larry Rogak: And yet, certain conservative elements say that what the Supreme Court does is tie the hands of the police and make it easy for habitual criminals to roam free.

Frank Zappa: That's only because certain types of things get in the papers and certain things don't get in the papers, and I think that may be a PR gesture on the part of certain right-wing groups. It's always great to scream about law and order when it applies to street crime, but none of those people are going to scream about law and order when it comes to crime in the board room.


Criticisms of the Christian right[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Christian right

Zappa was an outspoken opponent of the Christian Right from the outset, and in songs such as "Heavenly Bank Account" Zappa advocated removing the tax-exempt status from all religious organizations, regardless of politics. He was also contemptuous of the fundamentalists' hypocrisy, as demonstrated in the songs Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk (1988):[29] and The meek shall inherit nothing" (1981):[30]

With a Ku-Klux mumu in the back of the truck,

if you ain't born again they're going to mess you up
Saying "no abortion, no sir-ree,
Life's too precious can't you see."
What's that swinging from the neighbor's tree?

Well, it looks like colored folks to me.
Perhaps it's their idea

Of an Affirmative Action Plan To give White Trash a 'special break'; Well, they took those Jeezo-bucks and ran

To the bank!

Zappa was raised Catholic but became an atheist around the age of 18. [31] While Zappa had plenty of criticisms of religious institutions, and television evangelical preachers, in particular, Zappa supported the right of people who wanted religion... provided they "exhibited more respect for the rights of those people who do not wish to share your dogma, rapture or necrodestination." [32]

Criticisms of the Libertarian Party[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Libertarian Party

A delegate from the, US Libertarian Party once tried to convince Zappa to run for president under their party umbrella, to which Frank declined, arguing that parts of the Randite wet-dream platform were "either wrong or stupid".[33] Zappa did leave the option open, however, if the party changed a few things in their platform.[34]


Due to Zappa's upheld belief in freedom of choice and expression, he's expressed sentiments of endorsement to some progressive causes and or activists. However, that hasn't stopped him from referring to himself as a "practical conservative".[35]

Annie Sprinkle[36], America is better for your efforts.
—Frank Zappa
Critcisms of Traditional gender roles[edit]

Frank was critical of traditional gender roles whether it be stated through interviews or art, examples of this would be the songs, "Any kind of pain" criticizing the way women were exploited in show business, and with "beauty knows no pain" he mocks the fetishization of "beauty" in general.

You are the girl

Somebody invented In a grim little office

On Madison Ave.
And all the yuppie boys, they dream they will rape her.
Interviewer: So Frank, you have long hair. Does that make you a woman? Frank Zappa: You have a wooden leg. Does that make you a table?
Beauty is a bikini wax 'n waitin' for your nails to dry

Beauty is colored pencil, scribbled all around yer eye

Beauty is a pair of shoes that makes you wanna die

Zappa later referred to the social expectation between men doing "manly things" such as drinking beer as "Pseudo military behavior". [37]

Criticisms of The hippie movement[edit]

The hippie movement would occasionally make its appearance in Frank Zappa's music, more often than not in a comedic (fuzz) tone. [38]

"I think that what they do is a definite indication of their inability to love because the whole hippie scene is wishful thinking. They wish they could love but they're full of shit, and they're kidding themselves into saying, "I love! I love! I love!" And the more times they say it, the more times they think they love. But like it doesn't work, and most of them don't have the guts to admit to themselves that it's a lie."
—Frank Zappa in Frank Kofsky interviews FZ.
Criticisms of Media[edit]
See the main article on this topic: Liberal bias
See the main article on this topic: Red-baiting
The way the racket works is this: A right-wing guy who owns the license creates the myth of liberal media bias – with no proof that such a bias actually exists – then demands in the name of fairness that more balance be added into a news story. That buys him the chance to add even more right-wing ideological content into every news story and everything that goes on the air – as if there wasn't enough already. So in the name of fairness and balance, news stories must always contain an extra helping of right-wing agenda. And that's the reason for this whole myth about liberal media bias. It was just a promotion started during the Reagan administration. A very clever manipulation.
—Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa in His Own Words
You've got to understand why they're "fighting that fight". They're not fighting a fight, they're selling a scam. The whole McCarthy era was a scam, and it was another attempt to just clampdown. It was a move toward an authoritarian government. It was a tool that was used by people who wanted to move things in that direction. It wasn't just McCarthy. It was J. Edgar Hoover, he was a willing accomplice in all this stuff. He was feeding him the information."
—Frank Zappa in an Interview with Bob Marshall

Frank was contemptuous of most media outlets in America, claiming that most of them twist the news in order to further their political interests.


See the main article on this topic: Environmentalism
Well, we messed it up real good, you know it seems to me like one of the few things Americans have proved to be excellent at, we have managed to do things to an environment that other people haven't even dreamed of yet because we have the tools, we have the chemicals and we've been dumping them all over the place. Now if we don't do something soon, about the water and about the air, you won't have to worry about giving LSD to yuppies in the 90's because there won't be anybody in the year 2000. We have to spend the money and fix this stuff now! Otherwise, it's going to affect everybody, it's not a matter of business, this is a matter of life and death, and I think it's really getting to a critical situation.
—Frank Zappa



Unfortunately, Zappa's detestation of fundamentalism and puritanism, and his suspicion of institutions, led him to be dismissive of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. In one collection of zingers printed by the Chicago TribuneWikipedia in 1990, he speculated that the hype around AIDS was "to keep people from having sex" and that the epidemic was "pure propaganda" that was "all a puritanical holdover from a fundamentalist religious ethic that has acted itself like a virus and infected everything from Congress to the judiciary."[40] Zappa was also dismissive of the zoonosisWikipedia origins of the HIV virus in a 1993 PlayboyWikipedia interview;[41] this in part was the motivation behind his song criticizing C. Everett Koop, "Promiscuous".

Zappa's detestation for most recreational drugs unfortunately did not extend to tobacco; in fact, Zappa was a very heavy chain-smoker of cigarettes throughout his entire life.[42] In his dictated autobiography The Real Frank Zappa Book, Zappa stated, "To me, a cigarette is food. I live my life smoking these things... This may be a baffling concept to the people in San Francisco who believe that they will live forever if they stamp out tobacco smoke."[43]


Zappa's art is characterized by sociopolitical iconoclasm, techniques to recruit a cult-fandom, and scorn for "formula music". His music is notable for its playful fusion of multiple genres and time signatures. A throng of musicians toured and recorded with Zappa throughout his career, many of them making big names for themselves for passing Zappa's increasingly tough (and at times sadistic) audition process. Among these were include Steve Vai, Terry Bozzio, Ike Willis, Ruth Underwood, and Mike Keneally. Bands or individuals citing Zappa's influence or admiration for his work include the funk-bluegrass-metal-experimental band Primus,[note 1] liberal documentarian Michael Moore, pop musician Kate Bush, the creator of the Simpsons Matt Groening, and the comedian Bill Hader.

Zappa had a minor film career, most notably for acting in, co-writing, and co-directing 200 Motels. His performance as host and musical guest on Saturday Night Live was poorly received and he was prohibited from appearing again.[44]

Death and post-mortem[edit]

Zappa passed away on 14 December 1993 from prostate cancer. In 2016, Zappa's children had very public fights over inheritance and licensing issues surrounding his former property not long after their mother, Gail Zappa, died.[45] This feud was reconciled two years later in private meetings.[46]

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. These guys are so weird it's barely worth trying to categorize them. Try this or maybe this and you'll get some idea.


  1. Waits, Tom (March 22, 2005). "It's perfect madness". The Guardian (London). 
  18. Frank argues against censorship by self-appointed defenders of The American Way on Larry King Live in 1985.
  19. Again, Zappa argues about lyric rating with a clueless host on CNN.
  20. "Record Labeling. Hearing before the committee on commerce, science, and transportation". U.S. Government printing office. September 19, 1985. .
  23. web Interview with Mienfoking Films (4:50) on YouTube
  31. "Frank Zappa: America's Weirdest Rock Star Comes Clean" by John Swenson, High Times, March 1980
  32. Zappa, Frank, and Peter Occhiogrosso. 1989. The real Frank Zappa book. New York: Poseidon Press. p. 308 "The Dangerous Christians"
  35. The religions and political views of Frank Zappa The Hollowverse
  40. "Zingers from Zappa" by Hugh Boulware, Chicago Tribune, 1990 April 26
  41. "The 1993 Playboy Interview with Frank Zappa", Playboy, January 1993, reposted on December 3 2018
  42. "Bob Zappa on Frank, smokes, and addiction" by Dari Olds, The Fix, 2015 July 8, archived on 2015 July 29
  43. Zappa, Frank, and Peter Occhiogrosso. 1989. The real Frank Zappa book. New York: Poseidon Press. p. 228 "America Drinks and Goes Marching"