Today is the first day of Zappadan, a celebration of the life and work of Frank Zappa, which happens between the 4th of December, the date of Frank’s death and the 21st, his birthday, and which has taken place in the blogosphere since at least 2007. The Aristocrats appears to be to be the original home of Zappadan, but don’t quote me on that.
I’m going to post two YouTube videos here, two parts of an episode of Crossfire on which Frank appeared, to argue against the rating system that the PMRC (Parents’ Music Resource Centre) proposed, in order to give parents information about the content of recordings. This was the organization founded by the wives of Congressmen at the time, including, famously, Tipper Gore. On Crossfire, Frank states several ties that he does not believe that the lyrics of songs have an effect on the behavior of children. He upholds the first amendment right of recording artists to put whatever they want onto their recordings. This is somewhat different than he testimony that he made before a committee of Congress that was either considering legislation, or not, on the subject. The concern at the time (1985) seems to have centered around Prince, Sheena Easton and heavy metal. These seem innocent to my ear now, in comparison the the rap and hip hop that my teenage children prefer. I can’t tell a rap from a hip hop myself, but I know misogyny when I hear it.
I don’t think that the rating system proposed by PMRC would have worked. I also don’t see how it would have infringed on anyone’s first amendment rights. On Crossfire Frank says that he doesn’t believe that words matter. I heartily disagree with him. I believe that words can be terribly harmful and that they can be uplifting. Words can change lives. Young people form their understanding of the world out of words. The words of popular music, have always been formative in the world view of the young – and it lasts. I’m glad that my world view was formed on the words of Lennon and McCartney, Neil Young and Frank Zappa. How about you?