Frank Zappa: Composer & Social Critic


Frank Zappa was born in Baltimore on 21st December 1940 to a Sicilian father, Francis Vincent Zappa and a French-Italian mother, Rose Marie Colimore. Both were immigrants in the United States. Tired of poverty, the family had moved to Baltimore from Partinico, a small town West of Perlamo in Sicily. Despite the poverty in their early lives in Baltimore, the Zappas worked hard to better their lives. It was from this background that the music maestro Frank Zappa was born. During his early years, Zappa experienced health problems including asthma and earaches. Despite this, he started his formal education which he would later abandon terming it inappropriate. It was in high school that he started his singing career which later bloomed to great magnitudes. Apart from being a musician, Zappa was also a social critic of the government and the church. He even had ambitions of running for the American presidency. He later died in 1993 at age 52 in Los Angeles, CA (Milles 2).

The difference between caffeine, nicotine and other drugs

Despite his successful career, Zappa was a heavy consumer of caffeine and also a great chain smoker. Contrarily, none of his band members was allowed to consume any form of substance on the road. Sobriety was a prerequisite for membership in Zappa’s band. Considering this, could it be said that Zappa was applying double standards by prohibiting the use of drugs in his band while he used caffeine and nicotine? Or could we say that these two do not qualify to be ranked among drugs that can result in substantial insensitivity or sub-awareness? To answer these questions, we could use Zappa’s own approach to drugs. It should be noted that Zappa never used any other form of hard drugs. This shows that according to him, coffee and cigarettes were substances that never caused insensitivity. This is also evidenced in one of his statements where he argued that on their own, drugs are simply chemical compounds. Trouble comes when a person tries to use them as “a license” to behave in an inappropriate manner (Milles 46). This could identify why Zappa applied his zero-tolerance rule on drugs. He abhorred uncouth behavior that could result from the use of hard drugs. Without a doubt, caffeine and nicotine can rarely lead to such behavior.

Zappa’s view on drugs

To some extend, Zappa could be said to have missed something in his regard to drugs. He completely approached drugs from a moralistic point of view. He abhorred drug use that could lead to insensitivity. However, Zappa failed to view drugs from a health point of view. This could be attributed to his overuse of drugs that are suspected to have been the cause of his death from prostate cancer. In addition, his moralistic approach could also be attributed to his refusal to allow the use of drugs by his band members. By using drugs, he feared that they could behave inappropriately in public. This means that Zappa’s view on drugs was one-sided (Milles 49).

Role of his childhood life to his stand on drugs

Milles, in his analysis of Zappa’s, points out that his character of zero tolerance to drugs was an attribute of his experience with incarceration and also his resolve to avoid being caught on the wrong side of the law. This argument is strong considering the fact that Zappa spends most of his life moving from one area to another. He even had to live in drugs and gang-filled naval bases (Milles 43). Zappa narrated later that one had to act like the gangs otherwise one could suffer from the acts of the other gang members. It is therefore relevant to argue that Zappa developed this negative attitude towards drugs because he experienced what hard drugs made people do. Life in gang neighborhoods made him understand the implication of negative association. These two made him not hate drugs but hate people using drugs as a license to commit evil.


In conclusion, the life of Zappa contributed to his stand towards drugs. However, his stand was far much moralistic than health. This resulted in the banning of the use of drugs and also his dying from drugs.

Works Cited

Miles, Barry. Frank Zappa. London: Atlantic Books, 2004.