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Zappa library online, D.C. history recalled

Friday - 8/17/2012, 2:48pm  ET

Frank Zappa's library available digitally

WTOP's Neal Augenstein

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Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - For the first time, the library of music recorded by outspoken and eclectic performer Frank Zappa is available, digitally.

"It warmed my heart to click on iTunes today and see Frank Zappa's music finally available," says Cerphe Colwell, who played Zappa on the original WHFS, and now on Cerphe's Progressive Show.

Zappa's fusion of rock, jazz, classical, satire, and blues made him largely inaccessible on radio, but his fans bought the 56 albums he released.

After decades, Zappa's family recently reached an acceptable licensing deal to make his music available online.

His lyrics were biting.

"Even songs about the music industry, which brought him here to D.C. in September of 1985, for a battle on Capitol Hill defending freedom of speech," says Cerphe.

"It was all about putting warning labels on records -- the PMRC hearings," recalls Cerphe, who testified with Zappa, Dee Snider and John Denver before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The Parents Music Resource Center, fronted by Tipper Gore, wife of then-Sen. Al Gore, and Susan Baker, wife of Treasury Secretary James Baker, advocated parental warning labels on records.

In his opening statement, Zappa compared the PMRC plan to treating dandruff with decapitation.

Zappa's best-selling song was Valley Girl, featuring his then 14-year-old daughter, Moon Unit Zappa.

Zappa refused to play the song live, not wanting to be considered a novelty act.

"Most of Frank's music never made it to radio, and it's wonderful his son Dweezil is touring with 'Zappa Plays Zappa,'" says Cerphe.

Zappa died of cancer in 1993, at the age of 52.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)