LOS ANGELES — Gail Zappa, widow of the iconoclastic musician Frank Zappa and a zealous advocate for artists’ ownership rights over their work, has died. She was 70.

Zappa’s death Oct. 7 at her home in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon was announced by family members, who described her in a statement as “a doe-eyed, barefooted trailblazer.”

“Her searing intelligence, unforgettable smile, wild thicket of hair and trailing black velvets leave a blur in her wake,” the statement said.

The cause of her death was not revealed.

Zappa was known both as a free spirit and as a hard-headed businesswoman.

“Let me say it in the simplest way,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. “My job is to make sure that Frank Zappa has the last word in terms of anybody’s idea of who he is. And his actual last word is his music.”


After her husband’s death from prostate cancer in 1993, she battled tribute groups, record labels and music festivals she believed were taking illegal advantage of his music and his identity.

“I don’t want anybody standing in between the audience and what Frank’s intention as a composer was, and still is,” she said in the 2008 interview. “What I’ve discovered in the process … comes down to one simple thing – because everybody wants to remake his image. And they can … well, they can all pound salt!”

A composer who co-founded the Mothers of Invention and whose work was satirical, complex, brilliant, and sometimes impenetrable, Frank Zappa released more than 60 albums during his lifetime, including “Freak Out!” (1966), “We’re Only in It for the Money” (1968), “Uncle Meat” (1969) and “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” (1970).

He also was famous for the 1982 hit “Valley Girl,” featuring his then-14-year-old daughter Moon Unit Zappa.

Since his death, Gail Zappa and the Zappa Family Trust have issued an additional 38 albums of music that had been recorded by Frank but not previously released.

In the meantime, Gail Zappa had her lawyers send cease-and-desist letters to groups performing Zappa’s music without the trust’s permission.

She also took on the German festival Zappanale, which she contended was using her husband’s name and image without a license. A German court ruled against her.

“It’s exactly what Frank feared the most,” she told music journalist Larry LeBlanc in 2014. “I remember when we were in Vienna, and they had these Mozart candies. He said, ‘God, what a life that would be if you wound up having your name on chocolate in a tourist mecca.’ That essentially is what Germany has done.”

Gail Zappa is survived by daughters Moon Unit and Diva; sons Dweezil and Ahmet; and four grandchildren.

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