Many thought he would not survive. Many thought of him as nothing more than a short-lived, one-joke 'gag' artist. Yet, somehow he has been able to outlast them all!
His name is 'Weird Al' Yankovic, and his brand of humorous songs are such a phenomenon, at least in the US and Canada, that they sometimes outsell the very songs they make fun of! Al has consistently proven that his crazy, off-the-wall music can continue to be entertaining for a very long time.
Al's Real Forte
'Weird Al' Yankovic is a comical singer, song-writer and accordian player. While many of his songs are both funny, and completely original, most of his most popular songs are parodies of other people's popular songs.
A musical parody is created by taking the musical tune of one song, but changing or replacing its lyrics. Sometimes words are substituted with other words that sound similar. The Cindi Lauper song 'Girls Just Want to Have Fun', becomes 'Girls Just Want to Have Lunch'. The Blackhearts' song 'I Love Rock n' Roll', becomes 'I Love Rocky Road'. Other song titles go off in different directions. Jimmy Webb's song 'MacArthur Park' becomes 'Jurassic Park'. Survivor's song 'Eye of the Tiger', becomes 'Theme from Rocky XIII', but it explains that Rocky now owns a deli, so you can have your roast beef on 'the rye or the Kaiser'. For some reason, many of Al's songs are about food.
When Weird Al can not find a feasible way to fit a popular song into a parody, he instead inserts it into a polka compilation. This is like the inverse of a parody. Instead of rewriting lyrics to fit music, he changes the music behind the original lyrics. They tend to somewhat resemble polka music.
Al always acquires permission from the original performers before placing a parody or polka lyrics on an album1, although there is no legal requirement for him to do so. He just likes to be diplomatic. Most performers think it is really a huge honour to have their songs reworked by Al Yankovic.
Many music fans will probably agree that his songs are funny, clever and catchy. Others complain that they are silly and annoying. His music is probably best appreciated if you do not take any of it seriously. Just try to have fun, when you listen to him.
'Fat', from his 1988 Even Worse album, is a parody of Michael Jackson's 'Bad'. It is, arguably, his funniest song. A small sample of its lyrics:
My zippers bust... my buckles break
I'm too much man... for you to take
The pavement cracks... when I fall down
I've got more chins... than Chinatown
Those who are into computers may enjoy one of Al's newer songs. 'It's All About the Pentiums', from his 1999 Running with Scissors album, is a parody of a Sean 'Puffy' Combs'2 song 'It's All About the Benjamins'.
They call me the king of the spreadsheets
Got 'em all printed out on my bedsheets
My new computer's got the clocks, it rocks
But it was obsolete before I opened the box
Another one of Weird Al's most unusual talents is the simple fact that he is appreciated enormously across all ages and races. Most recording artists try to target specific age groups. Some record for little children, some are for teenagers, and there are many strictly for adults. However, those same children, teens, and adults can all go crazy for Al. His music works to that many levels.
Adults love the way he treats modern day topics, especially when sung to the tune of a nostalgic song. Teens like his quasi-hip attitude, especially when sung to the tune of a current chart-topping hit. Younger children just like him because he looks, acts, and sings funny. Although Al occasionally alludes to violent themes and, very rarely, mild vulgarities, he is quite far from being obscene or even highly objectionable. Of course, he never tries to insult anyone. So bring the kids along, its good, clean family fun.
'Weird Al' Yankovic's Most Popular Songs
|Title||Album (Year)||Parody Of (Artist)|
|Eat It||In 3D (1984)||Beat It (Michael Jackson)|
|Fat||Even Worse (1988)||Bad (Michael Jackson)|
|Yoda||Dare to be Stupid (1985)||Lola (The Kinks)|
|The Saga Begins (The Episode I Song)||Running with Scissors(1999)||American Pie(Don McLean)|
|Amish Paradise||Bad Hair Day (1996)||Gangsta's Paradise (Coolio)|
|Jurassic Park||Alapalooza (1993)||MacArthur Park (Jimmy Webb)|
|Gump||Bad Hair Day (1996)||Lump (The Presidents)|
|It's All About the Pentiums||Running with Scissors(1999)||It's All About the Benjamins (Sean 'Puffy' Combs)|
|Smells Like Nirvana||Off the Deep End (1992)||Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)|
|Like a Surgeon||Dare to be Stupid (1985)||Like a Virgin (Madonna)|
|The Night Santa Went Crazy||Bad Hair Day (1996)||(original)|
|You Don't Love Me Anymore||Off the Deep End (1992)||(original)|
|UHF||UHF Original Sound Track and Other Stuff (1989)||(original)|
|Christmas at Ground Zero||Polka Party! (1986)||(original)|
|Dare to be Stupid||Dare to be Stupid (1985)||(original)|
|I Lost on Jeopardy||In 3D (1984)||Jeopardy (Greg Kihn)|
|Another One Rides the Bus||'Weird Al' Yankovic (1983)||Another One Bites the Dust (Queen)|
|I Love Rocky Road||'Weird Al' Yankovic (1983)||I Love Rock n' Roll (Blackhearts)|
A Face You Can Just Die For
To complete his persona as a different persona, Al often has to alter what he looks like. Traditionally, 'Weird Al' Yankovic has long curly hair, a trademark split moustache, and glasses. In 1999, Al had laser eye surgery, so he no longer needs the glasses. He also often shaves his moustache, and sometimes uncurls his naturally curly hair.
When performing parodies, he often wears a costume that resembles what the original artist would wear. Sometimes he wears something completely different and unexpected.
The World's Greatest Cover Band
Weird Al's usual band members are talented folks. They are very talented, in fact, and that is an understatement. They have to be good, because they are forced to play a multitude of music styles, to meet Al's all-encompassing parody agenda. No Yankovic review can be complete without mentioning them. Al probably owes a great deal of his success to these fellows:
|Name||What They Do|
|Jim West||Lead Guitarist|
|Steve Jay||Bass Guitarist|
|Jon 'Bermuda' Schwartz||Drums and Percussion|
|Ruben Valtierra||Keyboards and 'Taking Hits'|
Besides releasing at least 10 music albums, he also released more than a dozen side-splitting music videos, and hosted several TV specials, mostly seen on MTV. He even had his own short-lived Saturday morning television series, for children, on CBS.
'Weird Al' Yankovic is also responsible for a feature length movie, named UHF3, which was released in 1989. It just happens to star Michael Richards (Kramer of Seinfeld) and Fran Drescher (from The Nanny), before they were famous. The movie depicts what might happen if 'Weird Al' was allowed to run a very local TV station. This cult-classic film has recently been released on DVD, with lots of extra features, including: a collection of scenes cut from the final version, the UHF music video, a glimpse behind the scenes, audio commentary from several folks, a few 'Easter Eggs' tossed in, and more.
Al sometimes has a habit of making cameo appearances in other movies, such as the 'Naked Gun' series.
Keep your eyes peeled for the number 27, in any one of Al's works. He appears to be quite obsessed with this number, for some reason.
Give Meaning to Your Boring, Miserable Life!
If you really want to experience 'Weird Al' Yankovic to the fullest, you must attend one of his concerts! To say that this fellow can put on a jolly good show, would be a drastic understatement. This is due, in no small part, to his various concert-only songs and gags. Concerts give Al the freedom to sing parody songs he did not have permission to include on his albums.
One particularly ridiculous gag is known as 'The Yoda Chant'. At the end of the song 'Yoda', Al and his band members break into a synchronized symphony of silliness, with their arms, and such, that few can fully understand.
An official concert video has been released, named 'Weird Al' Yankovic Live! Be warned: This video does not contain any concert-only songs! It does contain the Yoda Chant, but much of its impact is lost, when not seeing it in person.
Brief Biographical Notes
'Weird Al' Yankovic was born as Alfred Matthew Yankovic, on October 23, 1959, in Downey, California, and was raised in Lynwood, California.
For some reason, he developed a great appreciation for weird music.
Although he is not related to 'Polka King' Frankie Yankovic, he learned to play the accordion, anyway.
After becoming valedictorian of his high school, and acquiring a degree in architecture, he ended up becoming one of the most requested performers on The Doctor Demento Show. No one realised back then that Al would become such a gigantic, Grammy award winning, mega-star today.
Yankovic was married on 10 February, 2001, to Suzanne, and is currently working on a new album.
While his popularity shows no signs of fading, many of the performers Al has parodied over the years, are scarcely heard of, anymore.
If you would like to learn more about Al Yankovic, please visit his web site: www.WeirdAl.com.