Over the past few years, the children of the late Frank Zappa have been locked in an ugly, public feud over the handling of their father’s estate. Now, according to a statement from the Zappa kids–Moon Unit Zappa, Dweezil Zappa, Ahmet Zappa, and Diva Zappa–it looks like the siblings are finally ready to bury the hatchet and work together. On Tuesday, May 15, Dweezil posted a new statement to his website, noting “I just wanted to thank all of you once again for your support. I couldn’t do what I do without you!” in addition to deleting old posts about the family’s disagreements and his public arguments with Ahmet. The note reads:
Recently, we Zappa siblings (Diva, Ahmet and Dweezil) got together with the goal of resolving our differences. Once we sat down and actually listened to one another, we found a much greater understanding of each other’s intentions. We regret that our communication broke down and that things were misconstrued. It may be a bumpy road at times – we are a passionate Italian family – but we have decided to work toward privately discussing issues rather than using public forums and lawyers.
We are hopeful that if any of our father’s fans have felt conflicted, they can join us in the peace of our resolution. With our best feet forward, we are moving ahead and will faithfully deliver much more of our father’s indefinable brilliance, also known as the “World’s Finest Optional Entertainment.”
Thank you for your passion and love for our father. We can assure you, we all feel the same about him.
The Zappa children’s detente is highly significant given the public and nasty feud in which they’ve been embroiled for years. In 2002, Frank’s widow, Gail Zappa, founded the Zappa Family Trust, a holder for the title and copyright to Frank’s musical and artistic products, as well as his commercial image. As Rolling Stone reported in an extensive 2016 feature on the family rift, shortly before she died of lung cancer in 2015, Gail entrusted the Trust to her two youngest children, Ahmet and Diva, giving each of them a 30% stake while leaving Dweezil and Moon only 20% each. “We’re like shareholders who have no say in anything.”:
[Video: Rolling Stone, 2016]
The initial sting of that divisive decision has only increased over time. In the years since then, the “30 % stake Zappas” have continuously clashed with the “20%-stake Zappas” over the handling of the Trust both–in the court of law and in the court of public opinion. In particular, the Trust imposed restrictions on Dweezil’s own long-running touring tribute, Zappa Plays Zappa. Under the grounds that the name “Zappa Plays Zappa” was owned by the Zappa Family Trust, Dweezil was informed that he was no longer allowed to tour under that banner and risked enormous copyright infringement penalties each time he played a song without proper permission. The move forced Dweezil to change the name of his act to Dweezil Zappa Plays Frank Zappa. As Dweezil noted at the time, “It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but this is being done under duress.” Eventually, after receiving various legal warnings to stop what he was doing (and leaning into the drama by selling t-shirts with the ZFT’s Cease and Desist order printed on the front), Dweezil announced his tongue-in-cheek “Cease And Desist” tour billed as Dweezil Zappa Plays Whatever The F@%K He Wants!
In 2017, the Zappa Family Trust announced Frank Zappa – Back On The Road: The Hologram Tour, which will pair Frank’s former bandmates with a Frank hologram. In the tour announcement, Ahmet’s first public allusion to the feud, Ahmet Zappa also queried, “How radical would it be to . . . to see Dweezil side by side with our father playing dueling guitar solos?,” later noting that seeing Dweezil and Moon Unit performing once again alongside their father “would be my greatest wish.” Dweezil was less than thrilled with his brother’s appeal, responding with an open letter via blog post that angrily derided his brother’s zealous use of his majority stake in the family trust.
Ahmet replied, also via a public statement, rebuking various parts of Dweezil’s letter and once again appealing to his brother to speak face-to-face and try to resolve their issues. As he noted:
What everyone needs to understand is that this is not a black and white situation. But it is certainly solvable. I have an emotional responsibility because he is my brother and I care about him–despite what he continues to say publicly about me. But I also have a legal and fiduciary responsibility to do the right thing as a co-trustee of the Zappa Family Trust (along with our sister Diva), a position we never asked for but were given by our mother. …
What I think should be happening is Dweezil should be out kicking ass playing Frank’s music on the road, while we are kicking ass here creating different outlets of our father’s work, both new and unseen for generations current and those to come.
Hopefully, the Zappa children’s reconciliation will allow the focus of the music world to finally shift away from family drama and legal in-fighting and back to their main objective: honoring the unparalleled musical legacy of Frank Zappa.