Synopses & Reviews
The definitive biography of religion-baiting, Republican-hating, chain-smoking, coffee-addicted, classically trained guitar virtuoso Frank Zappa.
Ten years after his death, Frank Zappa continues to influence popular culture. With almost one hundred recordings still in print from his revolutionary work with the Mothers of Invention to his influential first solo album, Lumpy Gravy Frank Zappa remains a classic American icon. Scores of bands have been influenced by (and have shamelessly imitated) Zappa's music, and a talented roster of musicians passed through Zappa's bands, including Captain Beefheart, Jean-Luc Ponty, George Duke, Lowell George, and Steve Vai. Now comes the definitive biography of Zappa by best-selling author Barry Miles, who knew Zappa personally and was present at the recording of some of his most important albums.
Miles follows Zappa from his sickly Italian-American childhood in the 1940s (his father worked for the military and was used to test how effective new biological warfare agents were) to his youthful pursuit of what was a lifelong dream: becoming a classical composer. Zappa brings together the many different personalities of this music legend together for the first time: the self-taught musician and composer who gained fame with the "rock" band the Mothers of Invention; the political antagonist who mocked presidents while being invited by Václav Havel to represent Czechoslovakia's cultural interests in the United States; and Zappa the family man who was married to the same woman for over thirty years.
Rebel, performer, and a true musical visionary, Zappa is a brilliant and sweeping portrait of an American legend, written by one of rock music's most respected biographers.
"Pop culture biographer Miles (Paul McCartney; Ginsberg; etc.) paints an engrossing portrait of the troubled musical genius who died of prostate cancer in 1993 at age 52. Zappa endured a peripatetic youth and an early brush with the law that fueled his trademark anti-authoritarian strain; his musical brilliance eventually transformed him from class clown into one of rock's major icons, with such landmark records as We're Only in It for the Money and Joe's Garage. Miles skillfully weaves together the major beats and minor notes of Zappa's remarkable life, no small feat given the musician's many contradictions: he was a hard-rocking star, but also a meticulous, studious composer influenced by Varse and Stravinsky; he despised drug use and the trappings of stardom, but he loved groupies (he partook of their favors freely, eventually marrying one and fathering three children). A virtuoso, a perfectionist and a shrewd businessman, Zappa alienated, sued or otherwise offended nearly everyone in his life at some point; he especially loved tormenting his audience. Miles hits the ups and downs of Zappa's life like a skilled composer in his own right, and he captures the contentious eras (from the late 1950s on) in which Zappa's genius emerged. The result is a penetrating look both at Zappa and at the social and political milieu in which popular rock music stepped to the fore. Agent, Andrew Wylie. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[T]he most comprehensive [Zappa] biography to date....Well written and exceedingly well referenced, right down to the exhaustive discography." Booklist
"A portrait does emerge here, and it's a frighteningly soulless one: against it, Miles's occasional reminders of Zappa's musical genius seem more like afterthoughts than genuine analysis. Far from the last word on Zappa, but an interesting shot from the sidelines." Kirkus Reviews
"Despite sometimes tendentious overstatements, the book does indeed establish that Zappa, through his genre-shattering experiments, technical virtuosity and staggering productivity, deserves to be considered a central figure of late-20th-century American culture." Camille Paglia, The New York Times Book Review
"Miles' account is a useful addition to the numerous published books about Zappa, including an autobiography, and its flaws are few and relatively minor." Los Angeles Times
"[A] well-rounded portrait of Zappa and a critical evaluation of his rock, jazz, and classical compositions, recordings, and live performances....[T]his looks to be one of the most important books on the enigmatic Zappa." Library Journal
Vividly explores the life of a music legend shedding light on the tensions that made him simultaneously iconoclastic and conventional." Vogue
Ten years after his death, rebel, performer, and true musical visionary Frank Zappa continues to influence popular culture. Zappa is a brilliant and sweeping portrait, written by one of rock music's most respected biographers.