Crowdfunding Campaigns of the Week: Jessi Zazu and Dweezil Zappa
As I write this week’s column, it is Christmas morning. For the last six months, I have brought you weekly recommendations for new albums by artists using crowdfunding campaigns to fund them. But this week, in the spirit of the holidays, I’m going to take a slightly different tack. While most crowdfunding campaigns go toward a new album or new tour, occasionally, a campaign is used for a different end. I featured one of these a few weeks ago when I wrote about Donna the Buffalo’s quest for a new tour bus. This week, my featured crowdfunding campaigns will be of a more charitable nature. One is to help a beloved roots music artist in the most important fight of her life. The other is to help the son of a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who is at risk of losing the use of his given birth name.
Those Darlins spent a decade together before breaking up in March of this year. In that time, their garage rock take on Americana made them a popular band among fans of the genre. Just two weeks after the band played their final show together, lead vocalist Jessi Zazu was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The fight has been touch and go, with Zazu spending time in the ICU at one point, but she continues to fight. But, as with many cancer patients, the physical battle that takes every ounce of energy they have threatens to be dwarfed by the financial burden of increasingly expensive treatments. So Zazu’s family and friends have taken to crowdfunding site YouCaring to raise funds from Zazu’s many fans. This is very different than the campaigns I usually feature here. There are no “backer rewards” or “exclusive merchandise deals” available for those who pledge. Instead, the campaign is focused on making sure all of the money raised goes right to where it is needed, Zazu’s mounting medical bills. For those who want to show their support for Zazu and the battle against cancer, they can purchase an “Ain’t Afraid” t-shirt from Zazu’s site.
Names in music are funny things. Often times, artists will change their birth names to something else and run afoul of a person or corporation for trademark infringement. Such was the case with Thomas Robertson, aka Thomas Dolby and the Dolby Labs. But the situation with artist Dweezil Zappa is a bit different. Zappa’s name is the one he was given at birth, by his father Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Frank Zappa. For more than a decade, Zappa has been honoring his father by playing with various members of Franks band The Mothers of Invention in Zappa Plays Zappa. Earlier this year, the Zappa Trust, run by two of Dweezil’s younger siblings and overseeing the Frank Zappa estate, sued Dweezil for trademark infringement, claiming that he had no legal right to use Zappa as a musical performer, despite him having done so professionally since 1982 and personally since 1969, when daddy Frank listed “musician” as the religion on his birth certificate. Zappa has taken to PledgeMusic to form The Others of Intention, not a band but a group of friends and fans who pledge money to help him fight to keep his name. Backer rewards for the campaign include an eleven minute guitar instrumental entitled “Dinosaur”, featuring guest solos from James Santiago, Oz Noye, Chris Buono, and even Frank Zappa, a “Save Zappa” guitar pick, a chance to join Dweezil for a round of golf, and one of several of Dweezil’s guitars.