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Rock Hall Anniversary: Death of Frank Zappa

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Twenty years ago in December 1993, the music world would lose one of the most experimental and eclectic artists in history.

It was on that day that Frank Zappa passed away, following a three-year battle with prostate cancer, ending a career that had spanned for over thirty years, and has included music that has not only came from both his band the Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist, but also resulted in a total of over sixty albums that were a combination of rock, soul, jazz, and orchestral. Zappa, along with the Mothers of Invention debuted in 1966 with the album Freak Out! The album was credited with stretching the boundaries of rock music at the time, with its mixture of avant-garde and song parody, thus making it a groundbreaking album.

By the end of the 1960s, Zappa had struck out on his own, producing for other artists including Alice Cooper and Captain Beefheart, while releasing a wealth of albums up until the 1990s that included 1969’s Hot Rats, 1974’s Apostrophe (*) (which became Zappa’s first top ten album), 1979’s Joe’s Garage, and 1986’s Jazz From Hell.

Zappa would not be known for his music, but also his stand on various issues including censorship. In 1985, he testified before the U.S. Senate, blasting the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), who was calling for labeling of records that contained explicit content. And since his death (and even during his lifetime), Zappa has remained one of the most influential musicians of all time, with honors ranging from a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award to an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as influencing numerous artists from various genres of music including alternative acts Phish and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, funk legend George Clinton, and hard rock bands like Black Sabbath.

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