Credit: Shutterstock/Frank Zappa

Government is the Entertainment division of the military-industrial complex

One of the most prolific musicians of the twentieth-century, Frank Zappa was labelled as a genius in his own lifetime. A self-proclaimed ‘freak’, Zappa was a true non-conformist and anti-authoritarian, exploring a huge array of musical genres during a 40 year musical journey. From doo-wop to orchestral symphonies, and almost everything in between, his music was characterised by complex time signatures, an encyclopaedic catalogue of musical references, virtuosic playing from all involved and an undercurrent of, often ribald, humour.

Frank was born in Baltimore in 1940 to an Italian-American family and his first musical foray was as a drummer in his high school band. From early in his childhood he had shown interest in a wide variety of music, listening to chart pop songs alongside modern and classical composers. For his 15th birthday his mother allowed him to make a long-distance phone call to the composer Edgard Varèse - Frank ended up speaking to his wife instead, but Varèse wrote him a letter which Frank would frame and keep for the rest of his life.

Some of Frank’s most acclaimed music was recorded with his first band The Mothers of Invention, their first album being heralded as a celebration of counterculture and anti-authoritarian sentiment. The band would later be immortalised in the Deep Purple classic Smoke on the Water after a disastrous fire started at one of their shows. That was not the only disaster to befall the band however. At the first show after the fire, a fan ran onstage and pushed Frank down into the concrete orchestra pit below the stage. His band thought that he had died - obviously he survived, but he broke several bones, and suffered a permanent change in his voice, which would forever be lowered by a full third.

After being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in 1990, Frank kept working and performing, with his final recordings being characterised by large orchestras and extremely complex synthetic music. He died in 1993, and was buried in an unmarked grave in Los Angeles after a private ceremony.