As of this month, the Zappa Family Trust has revoked Dweezil Zappa’s legal right to perform renditions of his father’s music under the band name Zappa Plays Zappa. The ZFT promises to levy a $150,000 fine against Dweezil each time he plays any Frank Zappa composition while using the band name that he has toured and recorded with for the past decade, according to an April 30 article in the New York Times.
It gets weirder. Dweezil told the New York Times that before his mother died, she charged him ‘an exorbitant fee’ to use the name Zappa Plays Zappa.
Dweezil also told the Times that he will continue to perform his father’s compositions, but will now do so under the tongue-twisting name Dweezil Zappa Plays Frank Zappa. Said Dweezil of the mandatory name change, “It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but this is being done under duress.”
Dweezil also noted that due to his younger brother’s heavy-handed control of the family trust, he must cease featuring images of their father to promote shows and is forbidden to sell any merchandise that features their dad’s name or likeness. Those, you see, are now the intellectual property of the ZFT over which neither Dweezil nor Moon has a say. About this perplexing situation, Dweezil said the following.
“My last name is Zappa; my father was Frank Zappa, but I am not allowed to use the name on its own. I’m not allowed to use a picture of him. I’m not allowed to use my own connection with him without some sort of deal to be struck.”
A few weeks ago, the Inquisitr reported that Dweezil and Moon Zappa were not aboard an Alex Winter film project backed by siblings Ahmet and Diva Zappa. At the time, the scant information this writer could find about the fracas involved tweets by the two eldest Zappa kids. Moon said, “I do NOT condone Alex Winter or the project in any way. We are not united as a family as they suggest.” Dweezil tweeted, “I have no involvement with it [the Winters doc] whatsoever.”
On April 30, the New York Times published a report that sheds new and unflattering light on the continuing kerfuffle between the four Zappa heirs. JamBands also published an eye-opening report earlier this week. With this information, it may be easier to understand what’s going on with Frank’s grown children. Or not. And what does any of this have to do with the late Gail Zappa?
Shortly before her death from lung cancer in October 2015, Frank’s widow gave complete control of the ZFT to her two youngest children, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan Zappa and Diva Muffin Zappa. It remains unclear why Moon and Dweezil were excluded as trustees, nor is it known why, as the New York Times claims, Gail ‘defied’ her dying husband’s instructions to sell his master tapes and get out of the music business upon his demise.
The Zappa Family Trust was not Frank’s idea. When Frank was gravely ill in 1993, he told his wife that he wanted her to sell the rights to his recordings and to forego the music business entirely. Instead, Gail Zappa copyrighted her late husband’s name and image, created the Zappa Family Trust in 2002 and wielded control of the Zappa empire with what many consider tyrannical obsession. That control extended and continues to extend to her son Dweezil, strictly outlining what he can and cannot not do with his surname.
An acquaintance of Frank Zappa who wishes to remain anonymous observed
“This is obscene. That Ahmet—and his mother—would hassle Dweezil for using the name “Zappa Plays Zappa,” is absolutely vile. This is a family? Dweezil’s name is Zappa. He plays Frank Zappa’s music. Of course, if he makes a fuss, my guess is that Ahmet will file legal action and all of Dweezil’s shares in the Zappa Family Trust would be frozen. It seems apparent that Ahmet is continuing his mother’s truculent, bullheaded, alienating ways. A tragic, disgusting outcome for the brilliant legacy of Frank Zappa’s work. The so-called Zappa Family Trust should be nothing but grateful to, proud of, and accommodating toward Dweezil, who has worked extremely hard for many years to carry on his father’s music with exactitude and dignity.”
Are the younger, arguably less talented Zappa siblings behaving like brats because they’re jealous of their older brother and sister’s greater success? It certainly looks that way to some. Dweezil is an accomplished musician in his own right, and Moon’s a published author and comedic movie actress. She was also featured in her father’s only mainstream hit song, Valley Girl.
How Frank would react to the fractured state of his family is anyone’s guess. More than once, the man whose music continues to inspire and confound said that he was not at all concerned with his postmortem legacy and that to him, it was ‘not important’ to be remembered.
According to Rolling Stone magazine, the Zappa brothers now communicate only through lawyers.
[Photo by Franka Bruns/AP Images]