The city of Berlin will bestow a unique honor on a unique figure in modern music on July 28th when a street is renamed in memory of American rock and roll legend Frank Zappa. I n the Marzahn district of what was East Berlin, "Street Number 13" will be formally dedicated as "Frank-Zappa-strasse". The ceremony will take place at the ORWOhaus, a former photographic film plant on the street that is now home to a musicians’ collective. It will be the first street in Germany named for a rock musician, and the first street in a world capital named for Frank Zappa.
The members of ORWOhaus themselves proposed the street naming. What motivated a group of young German musicians to honor an American musical icon? Andreas Otto, spokesperson for ORWOhaus, explains, "Frank Zappa was one of the best all-around musicians in the world, as a guitarist, composer, and band-leader. He was celebrated for his uncompromising pursuit of musical exploration and excellence, and also for his courage using his music and lyrics to make society see its faults and hypocrisies. He didn’t do it just for media attention, it was part of his highly creative and unbending character. He stood up to his own government against politically-motivated censorship – he testified with great intelligence in the US Congress, and he refused to hold back his own outrageous sense of humor. We of ORWOhaus had our own battles trying to save an unused building and turn it into an active music center, and we decided that Zappa was a great example of how a musician can have an influence so far beyond the notes on a page. We hope Frank would be proud to have his name as an address for so many musicians."
Zappa’s work had notable sociopolitical influence in Berlin, a city that had a physical wall between the philosophies of capitalist democracy and communist one-party government. US tour operator Scott Tepper is running a trip this summer that features the Berlin street naming and the 18 th annual Zappanale, a festival in Bad Doberan, Germany, celebrating Zappa’s music and life. He points out, "Frank Zappa was incredibly popular in the Soviet bloc, even though his recordings had to be smuggled in, and anyone caught listening to them risked punishment. Zappa represented absolute freedom of thought and expression, since he often satirized his own society and government. He inspired people all over Eastern Europe to keep hoping for their own free societies." Tepper adds that while some might credit Ronald Reagan with winning the Cold War, there are two statues honoring Frank Zappa in the former Soviet bloc: one in Vilnius , the capital of Lithuania, and one in Bad Doberan. Ther are currently no statues honoring Reagan. According to Tepper, the street naming in Berlin reinforces Zappa’s status as a champion of real American freedom.”