What Do Frank Zappa, Vaclav Havel, and iTunes Have in Common?

OK, Since You Asked, I’ll Tell You

Frank Zappa was invited to Czechoslovakia in 1990 by President Vaclav Havel:

Havel was a lifelong fan of Zappa who had large influence in the avant-garde and underground scene in eastern Europe in the 1970s and 1980s (a Czech rock group that was imprisoned in 1976 took its name from Zappa’s 1968 song “Plastic People”). Zappa enthusiastically agreed and began meeting with corporate officials interested in investing in Czechoslovakia. Within a few weeks, however, the US administration put pressure on the Czech government to withdraw the appointment. Havel made Zappa an unofficial cultural attaché instead. Zappa also planned to develop an international consulting enterprise to facilitate trade between the Eastern Bloc and Western businesses.

So he wasn’t just a musical genius, prolific composer, and visionary bandleader. Now add freedom fighter to the list!

He was also about 15 years too early on an iTunes concept:

Before CDs came onto the market, Zappa had proposed to replace “phonographic record merchandising” of music by “direct digital-to-digital transfer” through phone or cable TV (with royalty payments and consumer billing automatically built into the accompanying software). In 1989, Zappa considered his idea a “miserable flop”.

The musical legend died 15 years ago this week.


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