Frank Vincent Zappa was born on the 21st December 1940, and would go on to become one of the most famous avant-garde musicians in the world; an artist, composer, filmmaker and activist whose work spanned everything from free-form improvisation to classical, rock, pop and jazz.
In his 30 year plus career, the highly prolific Zappa recorded more than 60 albums as a solo artist or with his band the Mothers Of Invention, and also worked with and produced for childhood friend Captain Beefheart, who made the renowned Trout Mask Replica with his help.
Zappa was largely self-taught as a musician, firstly as a drummer and then with electric guitar. His 1966 debut album with the Mothers Of Invention, Freak Out! earned strong critical notices and his reputation as a forward-thinking guitarist and composer began to grow.
Zappa’s lyrics often reflected his iconoclastic views on politics and the social order, in a humorous fashion. He became a passionate advocate for freedom of speech and expression and an enemy of censorship (even testifying before US Congress about it) and organized religion.
Though Zappa became something of a cultural icon by his later years (and his work highly influential to many other musicians), he had limited commercial success in his long career, and worked predominantly as an independent artist. He died in December 1993 after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and selected for the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award two years later.
Zappa is buried in an unmarked grave in the the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park, next to the headstone of actor Lew Ayres.
Location: Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary, Los Angeles, California, USA
The co-founder and long serving stickman for krautrock icons Can, Jaki Liebezeit is widely regarded by peers and fans as one the most talented drummers in rock music history.
Born on the 26th May 1938 in Dresden, Liebezeit spent time in Barcelona in the early 1960s playing jazz with likes of Chet Baker and Tete Montoliu. This period informed his fluid, metronome-style drumming, and he became an exponent of European free jazz in the Manfred Schoof quintet when he moved back to Cologne a few years later.
In 1968 Liebezeit helped form the experimental rock band Can, who would go on to create avant-garde classics like Tago Mago and Ege Bamyasi and subsequently influence countless musicians such as Mark E. Smith, St. Vincent and Stephen Malkmus.
After Can went on a hiatus, Liebezeit became a freelance drummer for hire for a period. He would then go on to form Phantomband and collaborate with Jah Wobble from Public Image Limited on numerous projects.
Liebezeit died from pnuemonia on 22nd January 2017. He is buried in the Melaten-Friedhof Cemetery in Cologne, and his headstone is a black pyramid he drew based around his theory of rhythm.
Another founding member of the legendary Cologne outfit Can, the bearded multi-instrumentalist Holger Czukay helped bring to life the band’s wildest music explorations.
Born in 1938 in what was then the Free City of Danzig but is now Gdansk in Poland, Czukay and his family moved on in the days after World War II as the Soviets advanced.
As a teenager he began working at a radio repair-shop, gaining an early insight into recording and engineering, before studying music and working as a music teacher.
Czukay’s interest in rock music ignited upon hearing The Beatles’ ‘I Am the Walrus’ in 1967, which led him to discover more experimental rock music by the likes of Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and The Velvet Underground.
A year later Czukay co-founded Can, playing primarily the bass guitar but also taking care of most of the recording and engineering for the band. He departed after the group recorded Saw Delight, trying his luck with a solo career which yielded several albums. He also collaborated with musicians on various projects such Brian Eno, Eurythmics, and U.N.K.L.E.
Czusay was found dead in his apartment on the 5th September 2017, less than 9 months after his long-standing bandmate and friend Jaki Liebezeit died from complications related to pneumonia. He is buried in the same Melaten-Friedhof Cemetery in Cologne, next to his wife Ursula who passed mere months before him.