Adelaide Gail Sloatman was born in Philadelphia on Jan. 1, 1945, the daughter of a nuclear physicist with the United States Navy. As a teenager she lived in London, where she worked as a model. She also attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York before hitchhiking to Los Angeles, where in 1966 she became part of the Sunset Strip music scene, recording a single with the producer Kim Fowley under the name Bunny and Bear.
She battled major record companies and cover bands alike as a fierce steward of her husband’s musical legacy. the couple were married in 1967, just as the Mothers of Invention were about to leave for a European tour.
In 1968 they bought a house, near Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles, that remained her home and the family headquarters, with a basement “vault” that houses Zappa’s voluminous recordings.
Mrs. Zappa was closely involved in managing her husband’s career, which over the years included various conflicts and lawsuits with record companies that led to the family’s recovering the rights to all of his music. She is survived by two daughters, Moon Unit and Diva; two sons, Dweezil and Ahmet; and four grandchildren.
Before Frank Zappa died of prostate cancer in 1993 at 52, he asked his wife to sell his master recordings and get out of the music business, she has said. But, she noted, he never said what to do with his publishing catalog — the rights to his compositions — and so she defied his request and became the keeper of his musical empire. In 2002, she created the Zappa Family Trust to manage his intellectual property, including the rights to his image.
In July, the family announced that Ahmet Zappa would take over daily operations of the trust.
After her husband’s death, Mrs. Zappa also became a top donor to the Democratic Party in California and was a frequent guest at the Clinton White House and a friend of Tipper Gore, who at the time was the wife of Vice President Al Gore. In the 1980s, the two women had clashed over Mrs. Gore’s organization Parents Music Resource Center, which advocated putting warning labels on records that contained violent and sexually explicit lyrics.