"Weird Al" Yankovic
(Read all about "Weird Al" after the video)
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Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic (// YANG-kə-vik; born October 23, 1959) is an American singer, songwriter, parodist, record producer, satirist, actor, voice actor, music video director, film producer, and author. He is known for his humorous songs that make light of popular culture and often parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts, original songs that are style pastiches of the work of other acts, and polka medleys of several popular songs, featuring his favored instrument, the accordion.
Since his first-aired comedy song in 1976, he has sold more than 12 million albums (as of 2007), recorded more than 150 parody and original songs, and has performed more than 1,000 live shows. His works have earned him four Grammy Awards and a further 11 nominations, four gold records, and six platinum records in the United States. Weird Al's first top ten Billboard album (Straight Outta Lynwood) and single ("White & Nerdy") were both released in 2006, nearly three decades into his career. His latest album, Mandatory Fun (2014), became his first number-one album during its debut week.
Weird Al's success comes in part from his effective use of music video to further parody popular culture, the song's original artist, and the original music videos themselves, scene-for-scene in some cases. He directed later videos himself and went on to direct for other artists including Ben Folds, Hanson, The Black Crowes, and The Presidents of the United States of America. With the decline of music television and the onset of social media, Weird Al used YouTube and other video sites to publish his videos; this strategy proved integral helping to boost sales of his later albums including Mandatory Fun. Weird Al has stated that he may forgo traditional albums in favor of timely releases of singles and EPs following on this success.
In addition to recording his albums, Weird Al wrote and starred in the film UHF (1989) and The Weird Al Show (1997). He has also made guest appearances and voice acting roles on many television shows and video web content, in addition to starring in Al TV specials on MTV. He has also written two children's books, When I Grow Up and My New Teacher and Me!
|'Weird Al' Yankovic - Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction?, 7:02, Diffuser.fm|
Yankovic was born in Downey, California and raised in Lynwood, California. He is the only child of Mary Elizabeth (Vivalda) and Nick Yankovic. His father was born in Kansas City, Kansas, of Yugoslavian descent, and began living in California after serving during World War II; he believed "the key to success" was "doing for a living whatever makes you happy" and often reminded his son of this philosophy. Nick married Mary in 1949. Mary, who was of Italian and English descent, had come to California from Kentucky, and gave birth to Alfred ten years later.
Al's first accordion lesson, which sparked his career in music, was on the day before his sixth birthday. A door-to-door salesman traveling through Lynwood offered the Yankovic parents a choice of accordion or guitar lessons at a local music school. Yankovic claims the reason his parents chose accordion over guitar was "they figured there should be at least one more accordion-playing Yankovic in the world", referring to Frankie Yankovic, to whom he is not related. Additionally, Yankovic said that "[his] parents chose the accordion because they were convinced it would revolutionize rock." He continued lessons at the school for three years before continuing to learn on his own. Yankovic's early accordion role models included Frankie Yankovic and Myron Floren.
In the 1970s, Yankovic was a big fan of Elton John and claims John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album "was partly how I learned to play rock 'n roll on the accordion." As for his influences in comedic and parody music, Yankovic lists artists including Tom Lehrer, Stan Freberg, Spike Jones, Allan Sherman, Shel Silverstein and Frank Zappa "and all the other wonderfully sick and twisted artists that he was exposed to through the Dr. Demento Radio Show." Other sources of inspiration for his comedy come from Mad magazine, Monty Python, and the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker parody movies.
Yankovic began kindergarten a year earlier than most children, and he skipped second grade. "My classmates seemed to think I was some kind of rocket scientist so I was labeled a nerd early on," he recalls. As his unusual schooling left him two years younger than most of his classmates, Yankovic was not interested in sports or social events at school. He attended Lynwood High School. Yankovic was active in his school's extracurricular programs, including the National Forensic League sanctioned speech events, a play based upon Rebel Without a Cause, the yearbook (for which he wrote most of the captions), and the Volcano Worshippers club, "which did absolutely nothing. We started the club just to get an extra picture of ourselves in the yearbook." Weird Al graduated in 1975 and was valedictorian of his senior class.
Yankovic attended California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where he earned a bachelor's degree in architecture.
Dr. Demento and early fame
Yankovic received his first exposure via Southern California and syndicated comedy radio personality Dr. Demento's radio show, saying "If there hadn't been a Dr. Demento, I'd probably have a real job now." In 1976, Dr. Demento spoke at Yankovic's school where the then-16-year-old Yankovic gave him a homemade tape of original and parody songs performed on the accordion in Yankovic's bedroom into a "cheesy little tape recorder". The tape's first song, "Belvedere Cruisin'" - about his family's Plymouth Belvedere - was played on Demento's comedy radio show, launching Yankovic's career. Demento said, "'Belvedere Cruising' might not have been the very best song I ever heard, but it had some clever lines [...] I put the tape on the air immediately." Yankovic also played at local coffeehouses, saying:
It was sort of like amateur music night, and a lot of people were like wannabe Dan Fogelbergs. They'd get up on stage with their acoustic guitar and do these lovely ballads. And I would get up with my accordion and play the theme from 2001. And people were kind of shocked that I would be disrupting their mellow Thursday night folk fest.
During Yankovic's sophomore year as an architecture student at Cal Poly, he became a disc jockey at KCPR the university's radio station. Yankovic said he had originally been nicknamed Weird Al by fellow students and "took it on professionally" as his persona for the station. In 1978, he released his first recording (as Alfred Yankovic), "Take Me Down", on the LP, Slo Grown, as a benefit for the Economic Opportunity Commission of San Luis Obispo County. The song mocked famous nearby landmarks such as Bubblegum Alley and the fountain toilets at the Madonna Inn.
In mid-1979, shortly before his senior year, "My Sharona" by The Knack was on the charts and Yankovic took his accordion into the restroom across the hall from the radio station to take advantage of the echo chamber acoustics and recorded a parody titled "My Bologna". He sent it to Dr. Demento, who played it to good response from listeners. Yankovic met The Knack after a show at his college and introduced himself as the author of "My Bologna". The Knack's lead singer, Doug Fieger, said he liked the song and suggested that Capitol Records vice president Rupert Perry release it as a single. "My Bologna" was released as a single with "School Cafeteria" as its B-side, and the label gave Yankovic a six-month recording contract. Yankovic, who was "only getting average grades" in his architecture degree, began to realize that he might make a career of comedic music.
On September 14, 1980, Yankovic was a guest on the Dr. Demento Show, where he was to record a new parody live. The song was called "Another One Rides the Bus", a parody of Queen's hit, "Another One Bites the Dust". While practicing the song outside the sound booth, he met Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz, who told him he was a drummer and agreed to bang on Yankovic's accordion case to help Yankovic keep a steady beat during the song. They rehearsed the song just a few times before the show began. "Another One Rides the Bus" became so popular that Yankovic's first television appearance was a performance of the song on The Tomorrow Show (April 21, 1981) with Tom Snyder. On the show, Yankovic played his accordion, and again, Schwartz banged on the accordion case and provided comical sound effects. Yankovic's record label, TK Records, went bankrupt about two weeks after the single was released, so Yankovic received no royalties from its initial release.
Band and fame
1981 brought Yankovic on tour for the first time as part of Dr. Demento's stage show. His stage act in a Phoenix, Arizona, nightclub caught the eye of manager Jay Levey, who was "blown away". Levey asked Yankovic if he had considered creating a full band and doing his music as a career. Yankovic admitted that he had, so Levey held auditions. Steve Jay became Yankovic's bass player, and Jay's friend Jim West played guitar. Schwartz continued on drums. Yankovic's first show with his new band was on March 31, 1982. Several days later, Yankovic and his band were the opening act for Missing Persons.
Yankovic recorded "I Love Rocky Road", (a parody of "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" as recorded by Joan Jett and The Blackhearts) which was produced by Rick Derringer, in 1982. The song was a hit on Top 40 radio, leading to Yankovic's signing with Scotti Brothers Records. In 1983, Yankovic's first self-titled album was released on Scotti Bros. The song "Ricky" was released as a single and the music video received exposure on the still-young MTV. Yankovic released his second album "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D in 1984. The first single "Eat It", a parody of the Michael Jackson song "Beat It", became popular, thanks in part to the music video, a shot-for-shot parody of Jackson's "Beat It" music video, and what Yankovic described as his "uncanny resemblance" to Jackson. Peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 14, 1984, "Eat It" remained Yankovic's highest-charting single until "White & Nerdy" placed at No. 9 in October 2006.
In 1985, Yankovic co-wrote and starred in a mockumentary of his own life titled The Compleat Al, which intertwined the facts of his life up to that point with fiction. The movie also featured some clips from Yankovic's trip to Japan and some clips from the Al TV specials. The Compleat Al was co-directed by Jay Levey, who would direct UHF four years later. Also released around the same time as The Compleat Al was The Authorized Al, a biographical book based on the film. The book, resembling a scrapbook, included real and fictional humorous photographs and documents.
Yankovic and his band toured as the opening act for The Monkees in mid-1987 for their second reunion tour of North America. Yankovic claims to have enjoyed touring with The Monkees, even though "the promoter gypped us out of a bunch of money."
In 1988 Yankovic was the narrator on the Wendy Carlos recording of Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. The album also included a sequel to Camille Saint-Saëns's composition The Carnival of the Animals titled "The Carnival of the Animals Part II", with Yankovic providing humorous poems for each of the featured creatures in the style of Ogden Nash, who had written humorous poems for the original.
Rubén Valtierra joined the band on keyboards in 1991, allowing Yankovic to concentrate more on singing and increasing his use of the stage space during concerts.
A factual biographical booklet of Yankovic's life, written by Dr. Demento, was released with the 1994 box set compilation Permanent Record: Al in the Box. The Dr. Demento Society, which issues yearly Christmas re-releases of material from Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes, often includes unreleased tracks from Yankovic's vaults, such as "Pacman", "It's Still Billy Joel To Me" or the live version of "School Cafeteria".
New look and career to present
On January 24, 1998, Yankovic had LASIK eye surgery to correct his extreme myopia. When Running with Scissors debuted in 1999, he unveiled a radically changed look. In addition to shedding his glasses, he had shaved off his mustache and grown out his hair. He had previously shaved his mustache in 1983 for the video of "Ricky" to resemble Desi Arnaz, and 1996 for the "Amish Paradise" video. Yankovic reasoned, "If Madonna's allowed to reinvent herself every 15 minutes, I figure I should be good for a change at least once every 20 years." He parodied the reaction to this "new look" in a commercial for his nonexistent MTV Unplugged special. The commercial featured Yankovic in the short-haired wig from the music video for Hanson's "River", claiming his new look was an attempt to "get back to the core of what I'm all about", that being "the music".
Yankovic has also started to explore digital distribution of his songs. On October 7, 2008, Yankovic released to the iTunes Store "Whatever You Like", a parody of the T.I. song of the same title, which Yankovic said he had come up with two weeks before. Yankovic said that the benefit of digital distribution is that "I don't have to wait around while my songs get old and dated—I can get them out on the Internet almost immediately." In 2009, Yankovic released four more songs: "Craigslist" on June 16, "Skipper Dan" on July 14, "CNR" on August 4, and "Ringtone" on August 25. These five digitally released songs were packaged as a digital EP titled Internet Leaks, with "Whatever You Like" retroactively included in the set.
In 2011, Yankovic completed his thirteenth studio album, titled Alpocalypse, which was released on June 21, 2011. The album contains the five songs from the previous Internet Leaks digital download release, a polka medley called "Polka Face", a song called "TMZ" for which Bill Plympton created an animated music video, and five other new songs.
Yankovic had reported an interest in parodying Lady Gaga's material, and on April 20 announced that he had written and recorded a parody of "Born This Way" titled "Perform This Way", to be the lead single for his new album. However, upon first submitting it to Lady Gaga's manager for approval (which Yankovic does as a courtesy), he was not given permission to release it commercially. As he had previously done under similar circumstances (with his parody of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful", which was titled "You're Pitiful"), Yankovic then released the song for free on the internet. Soon afterwards, Gaga's manager admitted that he had denied the parody of his own accord without forwarding the song to his client, and upon seeing it online, Lady Gaga granted permission for the parody. Yankovic has stated that all of his proceeds from the parody and its music video will be donated to the Human Rights Campaign, to support the human rights themes of the original song. Yankovic was also a judge for the 10th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.
Yankovic stated in September 2013 that he was working on a new album, but gave no details. In 2014, he used social media websites to hint at a July 15 release of this new album, as noted by Rolling Stone. The album artwork and title, Mandatory Fun, were affirmed by his publisher. Yankovic said in an interview promoting the album that, with the end of his recording contract, it is likely his last traditional album, in the sense of recording and releasing that many songs at a time; he said he will likely switch to releasing singles and EPs over the Internet, a method which offers more immediate release opportunities as Yankovic considers his parodies in particular as something that can become dated by the time of release. Mandatory Fun was released to strong critical praise and was the No. 1 debut album on the Billboard charts the week of its release, buoyed by Yankovic's approach for releasing eight music videos over eight continuous days that drew viral attention to the album as described below. It became Yankovic's first No. 1 album in his career. Additionally, the song "Word Crimes" (a parody of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines") reached No. 39 on the Top 100 singles for the same week; this is Yankovic's fourth Top 40 single, and makes him only the third artist, after Michael Jackson and Madonna, to have a Top 40 single in each decade since the 1980s.
On November 24, 2017, Squeeze Box, a 15-album box set containing all of Yankovic's past albums as well as one new one, will be released. The set will be contained within a mock-up of Yankovic's very own accordion.
On June 22, 2017, it was announced that Al, alongside such illustrious names as Minnie Mouse, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Jeff Goldblum, would be receiving his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018.
Yankovic changed his diet to become a vegan in 1992 after a former girlfriend gave him the book Diet for a New America and he felt "it made ... a very compelling argument for a strict vegetarian diet". When asked how he can "rationalize" performing at events such as the Great American Rib Cook-Off when he is a vegan, he replied, "The same way I can rationalize playing at a college even though I'm not a student anymore." In a 2011 interview with news website OnMilwaukee, Yankovic clarified his stance on his diet, saying, "I am still a vegetarian, and I try to be a vegan, but I occasionally cheat. If there's a cheese pizza on the band bus, I might sneak a piece."
Yankovic married Suzanne Krajewski in 2001 after being introduced by their mutual friend Bill Mumy. Their daughter, Nina, was born in 2003. Yankovic identifies as Christian and has stated that a couple from his church appeared on the cover of Poodle Hat. Yankovic's religious background is reflected in his abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and profanity.
On April 9, 2004, Yankovic's parents were found dead in their Fallbrook, California home, the victims of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from their fireplace. Several hours after his wife notified him of his parents' death, Yankovic went on with his concert in Appleton, Wisconsin, saying that "since my music had helped many of my fans through tough times, maybe it would work for me as well" and that it would "at least ... give me a break from sobbing all the time." In a 2014 interview, Yankovic called his parents' death "the worst thing that ever happened to me." He added, "I knew intellectually, that at some point, probably, I'd have to, you know, live through the death of my parents, but I never thought it would be at the same time, and so abruptly."