Many people in the musical know are familiar with the works of the late Frank Zappa – an extraordinary musician and composer who expanded the boundaries of musical expression. Often forgotten about Mr. Zappa, was his razor-sharp political and social acumen and his ability to say some insightful, sometimes profound, things when he was interviewed by the media.
One can only guess at what he would think about the world and country we live in now, and what words he would impart to us to express his thoughtful observation of all he surveyed.
The average person of faith will view their various holy books in a modern context in order to gain a fuller understanding of the world around them, and what their deity expects from them in their (current?) life. The same can be done for the words of Zappa.
The attacks on our First Amendment have been both brash and numerous in the last few years. Frank might offer, as he did while he was alive: “I have four children, and I want them to grow up in a country with a WORKING first amendment.”
It’s become obvious that the government has most certainly grown too big for its britches, and has become self-assured that the citizenry has to answer to it as opposed to them answering to us. Thomas Jefferson mused that when this happened, that a revolution might be in order. WWZD?: “The word (revolution) seems to conjure up images of sort of a modern day version of peasants going in to the street with their pitchforks. They go after the bad guy who lives in a big house someplace on the hill, and we’re gonna give it to the workers, ya know. That’s not the kind of revolution I had in mind. Well I thought that it might be nice if it was handled in a more modern and efficient way, without people getting slaughtered in the street… It’s a matter of infiltration.”
Also of some concern, is the growing influence of lobbyists for organized religion (as well as the Bush administration’s penchant for placing recent graduates of Christian colleges into very influential – and high paying- positions) and the governments catering to big business, which seems to have become the new standard of how things are done. Zappa, ever the prophet, did warn us about this: “The biggest threat to America today is not communism. It’s moving America toward a fascist theocracy, and everything that’s happened during 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…”
The education of our children is (and should be) of paramount importance to any parent (or any one who lives next to any one who is a parent…think about it: Even if you never have a child, the kids of today will be driving on your streets, living in relative proximity to you, voting, and perhaps taking care of you in your dotage in order to earn a paycheck), but the entire education system in this country seem, at the least, broken. Did you ever wonder why? Zappa did: “It pays to make the U.S. school system a crock of shit because the dumber the people are that come out, the easier it is to draft them, make them into docile consumers, or, you know, mongo employees. There are plenty of yuppies out there with absolutely nothing upstairs. Graduate airheads with PhDs and everything but they don’t know anything”.
Is there a seething nefariousness in the actions of our government? A grand conspiracy which many seem to believe but few are willing to talk about? Is every thing as it seems? Well: “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 theatre”.
And about those who do try to draw attention to things gone awry: “The person who stands up and says, ‘This is stupid,’ either is asked to behave or, worse, is greeted with a cheerful ‘Yes, we know! Isn’t it terrific!’”
And, let us not forget that at one time the government tried to wrest control and regulate musical expression (an effort that was spearheaded by Tipper and Al Gore…yes, THAT Al Gore and his wife). It was during that dark, turbulent time in our dim and distant past that Zappa addressed these words to Tipper Gore (and I echo them to those who have led our beloved republic directly into the toilet, their hands poised on the flusher): “May your shit come to life and kiss you on the face”.
Frank…I, for one, miss you.