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Mia Zapata

The Seattle rock scene of the late '80s/early '90s is strewn with musicians whose promising careers were cut short. But one of the most tragic stories was that of Gits leader Mia Zapata, who was murdered just as her band seemed to be receiving the attention it deserved. Zapata was born on August 25, 1965, and grew up in Louisville, KY, where she picked up the guitar and began singing early on. But it wasn't until college that Zapata became heavily interested in music, as she formed the Gits in Ohio during 1986. The group, which featured Zapata on vocals, guitarist Joe Spleen, bass player Matthew Fred Dresdner, and drummer Steve Moriarty, would relocate to Seattle in 1989, just before the "grunge" movement exploded. The group issued its debut album in 1992, Frenching the Bully, and also managed to tour outside Seattle, including a European tour. But the events on the evening of July 7, 1993, would change everything. Zapata left the Comet Tavern after hanging out with friends, and was supposedly going to look for a former boyfriend. A few hours later, Zapata's body was found on a deserted street, roughly two miles from the Comet Tavern -- she had been brutally raped and strangled to death. The album that the group was working on at the time of Zapata's death, Enter: The Conquering Chicken, was issued posthumously in 1994. Sadly, Zapata's murderer could not immediately be found my police. This led to Gits fan Joan Jett (who once compared Zapata's talents to those of Janis Joplin) fronting the band for a live album, 1995's Evil Stig, in hopes of bringing additional attention to the case and hopefully solving the murder. In the ensuing years since Zapata's death, the ex-Gits members issued remastered versions of their two studio albums, and put together an odds-and-ends collection, Seafish Louisville, in 2000. Finally, in December 2002, through DNA evidence a Seattle detective was able to locate Zapata's murderer, who was later sentenced to 36 years in prison. Interest in Zapata and the Gits remains high, as a documentary was issued in 2005, The Gits Movie; an awareness group was formed in Zapata's memory, Home Alive (www.homealive.org); and 7 Year Bitch issued an album as a tribute to Zapata, 1994's Viva Zapata!
Greg Prato, Rovi