Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y is for Yankovic


Every genre needs a jester; you have to be able to laugh at yourself. For that reason, I hope the long list of musicians parodied by Weird Al Yankovic appreciate his talent - as much as he appreciates theirs. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - but parody is just plain hilarious when it's done right. 

His career began in 1976 and since then, he has recorded over 150 parodies and original compositions. Twelve million albums attest to his popularity. Eleven Grammy nominations and five Grammy awards probably look great on the shelf next to six platinum and four gold albums. Weird Al really isn't a joke, ironically.

Weird Al's work reflects his love of pop culture and the ability to see the humor in it all. 

In the August 11, 2014, issue of the New Yorker, author Sasha Frere Jones writes:

"The opening lyrics of  'Smells Like Nirvana,' Yankovic’s 1992 version of Nirvana’s 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' are as close to a mission statement as he has: “What is this song all about? Can’t figure any lyrics out. How do the words to it go? I wish you’d tell me, I don’t know.” Weird Al has been cool for so long because pop makes everybody feel uncool; that he is the only one to admit it has made him a pop star. What’s strange is how frequently the musicians whom Weird Al parodies feel blessed, as if some kind of comic Pope had waved at them. Williams, for instance, told Yankovic that he was “honored” to give him permission to do a take on his hit “Happy.”

Alfred Matthew Yankovic was born in California, the only child of Nick and Mary Yankovic. They doted on young Al. I remember an interview where Al said his childhood home was across the street from the school and his Mom would watch out the window to make sure the kids didn't hurt Alfred. A door-to-door music lesson sales pitch gave him the choice of guitar or accordion - his parents chose accordion for him, of course, 'cause Al likes to rock. In school, he started early and skipped some grades. Being the youngest made him stand out and gave him a nerd vibe. He was the valedictorian of his senior class. 

In college, Al became a DJ on the college station and fellow students nicknamed him "Weird Al." It stuck. Around that time, he became interested in Dr. Demento's radio show. Early influences included Stan Freberg, Frank Zappa and Spike Jones. Al liked the twisted humor, buddy. Dr. Demento had Al on as a guest in 1980, where he debuted the song "Another One Rides the Bus," a parody of a certain Queen song. That performance landed him a spot on Tom Synder's Tomorrow show. I don't think he ever stopped after that point. I'm not sure he sleeps, actually.

Sadly, Weird Al experienced a terrible tragedy in 2004 when both his parents died of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Hours later, he would go onstage. He commented, "since my music had helped many of my fans through tough times, maybe it would work for me as well...at least, it would give me a break from sobbing all the time." 

The thing I appreciate most about his music is  that it is family friendly. My boys wanted to go to concerts long before they were actually "old enough." Weird Al is perfect for families. Some of my favorite Weird Al Yankovic songs include: "Amish Paradise," "Couch Potato," "Don't Download This Song," "White and Nerdy," "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies," and "It's All About the Pentiums." 

Come to think of it, maybe I'm white and nerdy...








ONE MORE THING...
For Michael D'Agostino, my pal from A Life Examined (check it out...I've linked it...all 
the hard work is done, people) : The staging of "The Saga Begins" is hilarious. This 
was taken at a Weird Al Concert we attended a few years ago. If you've never seen his
 stage show, it is awesome. It's the Olympics of genre and costume changes:




Make sure to visit some of these great bloggers who are participating in the challenge!

53 comments:

  1. He's always good for a laugh! And who hasn't loudly sung along with a song only to find later on they've been singing it all wrong?
    ~ The end is in sight!!! ~
    Visit me at: Life & Faith in Caneyhead
    I am Ensign B of Tremps' Troops
    with the A to Z Challenge

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    1. One more post for the A-to-Z! We should be proud of ourselves and the other 1500 pals who did it with us, ha ha.

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  2. "Another One Rides The Bust"?

    Wow! That's even better'n I thought it was! Sounds like an "E Ticket Ride" to me. Where do I buy my ticket for that bus(t)?

    CHERDO, had you selected ANYONE other than Weird Al Yankabich for "Y", you would have owed me bookooh (bookuh? buhkooh? beaucoup? - how DO you spell... bookoo?) milkshakes for having NOT used 'YOEY O'DOGHERTY AND HIS CORN LIQUOR BOYS' for the letter "Y".

    Weird Al was a genius. I used to LOVE listening to Dr. Demento, which is probably where I first heard Weird Al. (In fact, I used to own a Dr. Demento compilation LP that included a FABULOUS, twisted version of The Beatles' 'ELEANOR RIGBY'. I once, long ago, even thought of using it against The Beatles' original in a BOTB installment but I was ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that I would be the only person who would vote for the satire version.)

    Anyway, GREAT choice for "Y", even if Yoey got left out in the cold. (At least he has his corn liquor to keep him warm.)

    Incidentally, I'm still planning to post a 2nd comment on your Warren Zevon blog bit. I would have done it today except that I went to downtown Reno, and a bartender named Jaime at the [Link:->] 'SILVER BARON LOUNGE' @ The Silver Legacy made me drink a Beefeater martini and... the rest - as they say - "is hellstory".

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Olive-Lover'

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    1. Of all the typos I could have possibly done, I had to do THAT gem for you to find....oh, look, it's magically disappeared! IT'S A MIRACLE, I TELL YOU!! A MIRACLE!! (And it's beau coups...what do I win for knowing that?).

      Zevon would be so proud of you right now. You're going for the gold.

      On to the next Stephen post...

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  3. My Tuesday post has the perfect girl friend for weird Al.

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  4. It's a tough call, but for me his cleverest song has to be The Saga Begins - where he details the whole plot of Star Wars: A Phantom Menace to the tune of American Pie.

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  5. What a character.....and he was smart too.

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    1. He sure was - he makes it look easy, but it's not.

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  6. OH,... MY... GOSH!

    I just now watched / listened to 'WORD CRIMES' twice. Never heard it before. That is THE BEST song of ALL-FREAKIN'-TIME! ..."Literally"! (If it was satirizing a "real" song, I don't know which one, and it doesn't even matter.)

    "Wait'll" I show that to my brother, Nappy.

    "I COULD care less" is my #1... #1... #1... (not "Number Nine... Number Nine... Number Nine"... but... #1...) Word Crime Pet Peeve of... ALL TIME!

    CHERDO, you're in my All-Time Hall-O'-Fame for dis one. (By the way, I also HATE "dissed"... used by "spastic" writers ever'where!)

    ~ D-FensDogG

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    1. That is how I feel about that one, too - I want to memorize it and then require students to sing it. When I heard that one, his comedic genius title was sealed forever.

      "I COULD care less...(but apparently I'm too lazy to do so...)" That is one of my pet peeves, too.

      I'll be back later - explanation on Shady's reply! As always, "love you more than my luggage" (name that actress!).

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    2. You got me on the actress! The line sounds vaguely familiar but... that's the best I can do. I know I could Google it, but that's cheating.

      ~ D-FensDogG

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  7. Amish Paradise! Hadn't thought of the Dr. Demento show for yonks; used to love that show! Had to hide to listen to it, my parents thoroughly disapproved; not easy to hide those old ear sets, lol.

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    1. I want to use the word "yonk" every day. I'm in!

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  8. Good morning, dear Cherdo!

    Let me give a shout out to my "Y" guys, The Youngbloods, who reached the top 5 on the Billboard chart in 1969 with the song "Get Together," a call for peace and brotherhood. It's an anthem the people of Baltimore and other American cities and towns should embrace as we head into what might be a "long, hot summer."

    A rocker or rapper knows he's "made it" when Weird Al does a parody of his work.

    I must be getting old. I thought I knew most of Yeird Al's parodies but I never saw any of the videos you posted. Worse yet, rap and hip-hop are my biggest blind spots and I don't know the original songs and videos that inspired them. (The most recent artist I can think of off the top of my head is Frank Sinatra.)

    I best remember Al from back in the early days. I was working at an NBC station and watching TV with the late shift crew on April 21, 1981, the night Weird Al was a guest on Tom Snyder's Tomorrow Show and performed "Another One Rides the Bus." I loved his early videos which included "My Bologna," "Eat It," "I Lost On Jeopardy" and "Like a Surgeon." When I made the switch from news to entertainment and got a job at the MTV station, we played Al's videos to the delight of our TV audience.

    For decades Weird Al has been a source of comedy inspiration for me. I admire and respect a guy who really gets his subject, pays attention to details and creates a piece that ignites almost continuous laughter from start to finish.

    You were m.i.a. with your replies yesterday. I hope all is AOK, dear friend. Happy Wednesday!

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    1. Shadyman, my darlin' pal:

      I will be catching up on commentary soon, but I wanted to make sure I let you know that I am fine - but swamped. This is the week of finals for all the classes I teach and I've been checking and double checking stuff for this year and next. Today is the final day of class and I'm out the door in about ten minutes.

      My other hobby (homeschooling the world, as my friend once told me) changes every year. I teach what needs taught and I rarely do the same thing two years in a row - I guess the only exception would be a drawing class. That requires me to reviiew the entire year's curriculum and write a syllabus for each class at the same time I'm trying to wrap things up for the current year. Since we buy our own curriculum, I've got to check availability and get that information together for the group, too. Then, there's registration day - lots of planning, signing up, questions, etc. April is the month of days that require more than 24 hours.

      The songs parodied above are "Drivin' Dirty," "Royal," "It's All About the Benjamins", and "Blurred Lines." If you get a chance, look at the originals; it seals the deal on Al's genius. Most people know the older stuff better, but the dude never stopped and that is amazing. It's still fresh and insanely funny.

      So, if you'll forgive the lapse, I'm about to take a whole lot of stuff off my plate for the next couple of months with the completion of today's classes. Whew! 2014-2015 academics are a wrap! I return to my inner Cherdo!

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  9. He has done so many and is always good for a laugh.

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    1. ;-) I can't believe how long he has been at it.

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  10. Excellent choice! Weird Al is hilarious and just as talented as the music he parodies. And I'd heard he performed a concert the day his parents died. That is dedication.

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    1. Professionalism...where did that go?

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  11. Is it just me or am I the only one who didn't know Weird Al's name was Yankovic? :\ What about Yanni? That's the Y that first comes to my mind. :)

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    1. The CIA told me that you were the only one. It's good to be the only one.

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  12. Weird Al is great and I really liked the Dr. Demento show. I remember listening to it as I drove overnight from Connecticut to Virginia on my way back to the ship.
    I would have enjoyed doing what he does. He's a millionaire writing song parodies while I can't buy a ham sandwich from writing goofy haikus for free.
    But, I'm a weird Al in my own way.

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    1. The heartful haiku is worth millions...and you ARE weird Al's twin brother...hence the same name...'cause you're twins...

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  13. Weird Al is a genius!! I've always enjoyed his parodies. I liked Eat It ( to the tune of Michael Jackson's Beat it). I remember hearing about his parents and he performed and thought that was real strength and courage to still get on stage.

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    1. I think he helped boost those songs, ha ha.

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  14. It's amazing how he's managed to hang around, much longer than performers with far more talent. But he does occasionally make me laugh.

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    1. I've seen video of him in action (studio, directing others, etc.) and he is much more talented that he gets credit. Fun people are the best.

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    1. Ha ha ha...we should have been playing for Al in the early eighties, Gary. Where did all those original tunes and Beatles' memorization get us?

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  16. I didn't know Weird Al was so smart. A complete genius!

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  17. A lot of singers say they know they've made it when Weird Al parodies their music. I've seen a number of interviews with him. He seems intelligent and polite.

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    1. He is like that in person. I admire that - if you're only around a fan base for a short period of time and your livelihood depends on it, it's the least you can do. He was nice to Gonzo every time we've gotten to say "hello." That impressed me.

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    2. That impresses me, too. I've met the guys in America and The Guess Who. All kind and pleasant. The nicest celebrity award goes to Pat Conroy.

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    3. Is Al married, gay, or otherwise engaged? I ask because I'm willing to marry someone that nice and intelligent.

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  18. I think I would have loved to have you as a teacher, with all your creative energy and ingenuity. My grandson currently has a real loser, anal retentive teacher who seems to want to squelch all creativity.

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    1. What a sweet thing to say, Linda!

      Each year, I tell the kids that learning and fun are not mutually exclusive.

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  19. Music and comedy are fantastic together. Liking your A-Z theme Cherdo :-)

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  20. It may be a while before the world fully appreciates the cultural phenomenon of Weird Al. He's been at it for nearly four decades and his appeal with young listeners is every bit as strong now as it was when I first heard him in the early '80s. He has outlasted nearly all of the acts he's parodied. He's only 55. Well done, sir!

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    1. That is amazing and I now love you because you said "only 55." Well played, Squid.

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  21. I was always partial to the accordion version of Another One Rides The Bus he did on Dr Demento.

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    1. ...and you know how to spell "bus," too...I fixed the typo, but it said "bust" earlier.

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  22. Aw, thanks for the photo :) I've never seen his concerts, but I have heard how amazing they are.

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    1. You're welcome!

      (Psst...check our folder later...I'm adding stuff.)

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  23. He just makes you happy.
    And I adored his Happy video so much.

    cheers, parsnip

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  24. Weird Al is a reliable source for a laugh!

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  25. I love Weird Al! I wish I could convince him to write a theme song for our Quest (blog)

    --Mee (The Chinese Quest)

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  26. He is brilliant! Simple and plain and I would love to see him in concert. He is dedicated to his craft and his audience to perform right after his parents passed away-he didn't have to do that and he did-that is nice

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  27. Weird Al kills it. So funny. I listened to Word Crimes and laughed so hard. But, at the same time, I thought this is so true. It can be painful to read the statuses of some folks on FB. Just painful.

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Thanks for your personal yada, yada, yada,
Love, Cherdo