Written and produced by David Cavazos.
Edited by Zoe Kaiser.
This week we delve into the life of an artist who has not only brought us enjoyable music but also shown that music doesn’t always have to be taken so seriously to produce great results. Weird Al Yankovic has found his way deep into our pop culture as a parodist by rewriting other artists hits into hilarious sketches of his own.
Weird Al is the most successful comedy recording artist of our generation with an average of 11 million albums sold. Still, Weird Al wasn’t always so successful. In 1979 Al was a high school valedictorian who had gone off to college to become an architect and decided it’d be fun to mail in a novelty song to Dr. Demento’s radio show. The song was My Bologna – a direct parody of Knack’s My Sharona. This original version was recorded in the bathroom across from his college radio station and only featured Weird Al and his accordion yet became popular enough on Dr. Demento’s to be released as a single. Soon after he’d go on to write one of the most requested songs for Dr. Demento’s show Another One Rides the Bus a parody of Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust.
These successes led to his eventual record signing which gave him access to better resources for his work and began to write parodies with better production. He also began to produce music videos which would become his staple in pop-culture. He began with a video called Ricky in homage to I Love Lucy’s Ricky and Tony Basil’s song Mickey. Throughout his career he would parody more videos and achieve great success with hits like Eat it and Fat both videos and songs directly poking at Michael Jackson’s work. MTV at the time being the first network to give Weird Al’s videos a home would also be propelled into the mainstream by airing them.
By the 90s his work from the 80s had established him a household name. Critics also laughed at the fact that Weird Al’s career had even outlived many of the people he had been parodying. Still, the 90s also proved to be fruitful for Al with his hits like Smells like Nirvana where he pokes at Nirvana’s Smell like Teen Spirit writing that the lyrics make no sense and putting cows and tubas on the video’s set for fun. Along with Bedrock Anthem playing on The Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s and The Flintstones.
Unfortunately, Weird Al finally came under scrutiny from an artist in the 90s as well. Coolio who wrote Gangsta Paradise had not consented to Al rewriting it into Amish Paradise. Ironically, Coolio’s version is in itself a rewrite from Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise. Now while there is no copyright infringement for writing parodies Weird Al had prided himself on solely writing songs with the artist’s consent. He then wrote Coolio a letter of apology stating he had accidentally been told of his consent.
Weird Al Yankovic still continues to add more parodied songs to his repertoire bringing tears of laughter to our eyes. His work laid the foundation for other comedy musicians to follow most notably Tenacious D. He performs frequently and often visits Austin events such as SXSW and Fun Fun Fun Fest but why wouldn’t he be at an event with fun three times in the title.
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