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Gail Zappa, Frank Zappa’s Widow, Dies at 70

Pascal Le Segretain , Getty Images
Pascal Le Segretain , Getty Images

Gail Zappa, widow of the late Frank Zappa, died this afternoon at the age of 70. According to TMZ, she passed away in Los Angeles after a long illness.

After Frank’s death in 1993 from cancer at age 52, Gail took control of her late husband’s music as part of the Zappa Family Trust, which has diligently guarded the late musician’s image and work over the years.

Zappa met 22-year-old Adelaide Gail Sloatman in 1966, not long after his debut album with the Mothers of Invention, Freak Out!, was released, and they married the next year. One week later, the first of their four children, daughter Moon, was born.

The Zappa Family Trust issued a statement regarding Gail Zappa’s death, noting that she “departed this earth peacefully at her home … surrounded by her children.”

Gail was a doe-eyed, barefooted trailblazer, giving equal value to her domestic and professional responsibilities as matriarch of the family and overseer of all Zappa enterprises. She devoted herself to partnering with her husband in the music business and raising their children, Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet and Diva.

Gail enthusiastically executed her role as guardian of her husband’s creative life and, with his passing, strove to ensure his legacy as one of the leading American composers and musicians of the 20th century. In this and all business endeavors, Gail passionately advocated to establish clear definitions of intellectual property and copyright laws on behalf of not just her husband, but all artists. While she conducted intricate legal negotiations with corporations as grand dame of the Zappa Family Trust, she never failed to impart the sense of humor that was part and parcel of her indomitable and formidable personality. Gail, self-described as a pagan absurdist, was motivated by love in all aspects of her life, kept her authenticity intact, unbowed and, simply put, was one bad ass in the music business and political world.

Gail will forever be identified as a key figure in the creative renaissance that is Laurel Canyon. But more than any singular accomplishment, she defined herself in her personal relationships, happiest when surrounded by loved ones and artists, often one in the same. The memories she leaves behind are indeed her own art form. Her searing intelligence, unforgettable smile, wild thicket of hair and trailing black velvets leave a blur in her wake.

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