August 4, 2021

Frank Zappa. Unauthorized biography of Manuel de la Fuente

BOOKS

“The great merit of this biography is to expose Zappa within the political and social context that inspired his work”

Manuel de la Fuente
Music refuses to die: Frank Zappa. Unauthorized Biography
EDITORIAL ALLIANCE, 2021

Text: MARCELO GASIÓ.

It is striking that a character of the significance of Frank Zappa did not have a biography in Castilian. Not even a translation from a foreign publication. In a market with growing interest in top rock artists, his was a glaring omission that Manuel de la Fuente now corrects (Professor of Audiovisual Communication at the University of Valencia and regular collaborator of Efe Eme) with the market launch of Music refuses to die: Frank Zappa. Unauthorized Biography (Alianza Editorial), a book that is much more than a story from the life of the great American musician.

Drawn from countless sources, many of which had not been consulted or taken into account by other authors, the great merit of this biography is to expose Zappa within the political and social context that inspired his work.

After describing childhood and adolescence, and already becoming a professional musician in the early 1960s, the book details how Zappa used satire to criticize the perniciousness of American society and its innumerable hypocrisies, such as that of the hippies. In the seventies he established himself as a great musician, with a more frivolous theme.

But De la Fuente places special interest in the eighties and nineties, the time least studied by other authors. With Ronald Reagan in the White House, supporting fascist theocracy, budget cuts, and cancellation of rights and freedom of speech, Zappa was a pioneer and a staunch critic in opposing these policies. And he did it with his music and direct action, to raise awareness among his audience and also those who wanted to listen to him.

This biography also includes an infinity of previously unknown data, such as Conlon Nancarrow’s footprint, his relationship with Nicolas Slonimsky, the influence of Varèse’s thought (Zappa seems to imitate the well-known outbursts against the press that he never tired of pronouncing), the origin of the “secret word” of the concerts, his take on Lenny Bruce, the frustrated project to produce a record about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, details about the Montreux casino fire, rescued statements in which Zappa calls a liar. Donald Trump in 1990, the sources of influence of his songs and his films (Zappa produced eight films), opinions of James Galway and… Herbert von Karajan !, another true find of De la Fuente. It also rescues the pioneering work of Zappa as the creator of theatrical rock, and there is no lack of trivial data such as the names of his first teachers in high school (some of them had not come to light until now) and of all the pets that the family had. Zappa. All this with a long etcetera.

This variety of aspects is deeply studied and explained in the book, with a clear and easy-to-read language, which has first-hand documentation and the consultation of thousands of texts that provide numerous novelties that Hispanic readers will now know for the first time. It also includes a lot of graphic material: through numerous photographs the evolution in the life and trajectory of Frank Zappa is narrated. The work of Manuel de la Fuente, who had previously published various texts on Frank Zappa, such as the book Frank Zappa in hell. Rock as a mobilization for political dissent (2006) and was the official translator of the memoirs of the American musician (The true story of Frank Zappa, 2014) and his secretary Pauline Butcher (Hallucinate! My life with Frank Zappa, 2016).

It has been said many times that Frank Zappa is probably better known for his beard and mustache than for his musical work. This volume vindicates him as the revolutionary and lucid thinker who was, from a completely original vision that will surprise both fans and those who wish to meet this fascinating genius of the twentieth century.

Previous book review: Cursed heroesby Eduardo Izquierdo.