Hey! What’s new in Baltimore?
Better go back and find out.
– Frank Vincent Zappa, “What’s New in Baltimore?”
Musician and composer Frank Zappa (1940-1993) was born in Baltimore, and spent boyhood years in a Park Heights Avenue row house and at nearby Edgewood Arsenal. His family moved to California in 1952, but Charm City plans to honor its native son with a statute from Lithuania, which will be placed somewhere in Fell’s Point.
Lithuania? Did Mr. Zappa visit that Baltic land or have kinfolk there? Nope. It turns out that young revolutionaries in the capital city of Vilnius adopted the music of FZ as a symbol of freedom:
We never saw Zappa, but nobody ever saw God, and they still go to church. Lithuania is a nation of mythology, legends and fairy tales. Everything is mystified. People believe really quickly, and one of the myths is that independence is good for everyone, with no exceptions. That’s why, in such an environment, the Zappa seeds were so successfully planted.
— Vytautas Kernagis, Lithuanian musician, quoted by Adam B. Ellick in Rolling Stone.
After the fall of the USSR, grateful Lithuanian patriots erected a statue of the inspirational Mr. Zappa in the hip Užupis neighborhood of Vilnius which, except for a medieval monastery or two, seems a lot like today’s Fell’s Point.
The statue, a representation of Frank Zappa’s head by sculptor Konstantinas Bogdanas, is on a tall thin column. A duplicate of this 15-foot-tall artwork, purchased by Lithuanian admirers, will be shipped to Baltimore, (the city will pay for crating, shipping, and installation). The sculpture looks a bit like a huge parking meter, the kind Fell’s Point is phasing out. The exact site for the statue has yet to be determined.
We are told the Zappa Family Trust approves of the Baltimore bust, a good thing considering the international imbroglio over Germany’s Zappanale. The East German town of Bad Doberan began holding an annual Zappa festival before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Last year the Zappa family filed suit to block the event, but the courts denied the motion.
The most appropriate memorial to Frank Zappa is in Berlin, where 13th Street was renamed Frank-Zappa-Strasse. The street houses Orwo Haus, a Communist-era factory building that now provides rehearsal studios for 160 bands.
Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
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