A “Weird Al” Yankovic Fan For Life…and PROUD Of It!

My brother David is an incredibly talented musician.  He’s played the guitar for years.  He sings.  He writes his own songs.  And recently he decided to teach himself the drums.  Turns out he’s a great drummer too.  He plays a few set open mic gigs around town each week.  I’m always impressed to see not just him but all the local musical talent we have spend the night jamming together on originals and covers.  Recently one musician performed his rendition of the Kink’s “Lola.”  The crowd was digging it and the bar was singing along…only every word I sang came from “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Yoda” instead.  “Lola” is one of those songs that’s completely lost to me.  Al’s version is the only one in my heart and mind.   And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

If you’d like to give it a listen yourself, here it is.  There’s going to be a lot of music in this post so enjoy it!  We all deserve the smiles.  This is a fan-made video for “Yoda” by xTkAx using actual footage from The Empire Strikes Back and it’s SO AWESOME.

Our music is a very personal, very intimate part of who we are.  I wrote a bit about this in my post on Guardians Of The Galaxy and the importance of a good mix tape.  Our music provides meaning, solace, and structure to our lives.  It lets us smile, cry, dance, and sing.  It helps us to express what we can’t fully express on our own or feel what we’ve yet to fully understand.  So no matter the genres we love or the artists who speak to us, whatever comprises our music is an important part of who we are.  For me, my first personal musical connection was with “Weird Al” Yankovic.

I was fortunate to be raised in a family with good music always around me.  Mom always had a record playing or MTV on as I was growing up.  As a result, I was blessed to inherit a love of Billy Joel, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, John Mellencamp, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Cher, and so many others from her.  I still love those artists to this day, their music having formed a major part of the soundtrack of my life.  But the first musician I ever found on my own was “Weird Al.”

He was destined to be my guy too.  I need look no further than “Ode To A Superhero” to see how perfectly Al pulls together all I love about life.  Here’s a song inspired by Billy Joel, written and performed by “Weird Al,” and it’s all about Spider-Man!!!  Can life get any better than this?  I think not.  Here’s David Arndt‘s great fan-made video pairing scenes from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man with this exquisite song.

I found Al Yankovic long before he’d merge Spider-Man with Billy Joel however.  The setting was fifth grade.  I was eleven years old and sitting behind a kid named Ben in school.  One day Ben brought in a cassette of “Weird Al” Yankovic.  My mind was blown as soon as he hit “play.”  Here was this guy who was making music that sounded like songs I knew but they were funny.  I didn’t know music could do this!  It was love at first listen.  But this wasn’t to be a quick, casual love affair.  Oh no, this was the birth of a love that would last a lifetime.  Now, at thirty-five, I play Al’s music as much as I ever did and I love it even more.

I hear often from family and friends that they don’t know anyone (re: any adult) who loves “Weird Al” as much as I do.  The inspiration for this post came when Jeff told me I should write about “Weird Al” because I’m the only person he knows who loves him this much.  Jeff then recounted a story of when we were in college and I told him, “You have to hear this new song!” and proceeded – much to his surprise – to play him something from Al’s latest album.   You’d be hard pressed to find a more talented musician.  People are surprised when I say that but think about it.  I could only appreciate what he did so much as a kid but, as I’ve grown, I’ve come to realize Al Yankovic is every bit as talented as the musicians he parodies.  His first album, the self-titled “Weird Al” Yankovic, was released in 1983 and his most recent album Mandatory Fun (2014) was the first comedy album to debut at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.  He’s been producing hits and cultural touchstones for thirty-four years.  Through his career he successfully crosses all musical genres and manages to be every bit as hilarious as he is creative as he does it!

Who else can create polka medleys of our favorite pop songs?  Medleys that show pop music is perhaps best when played with an accordian?!?  Here’s a video for “NOW That’s What I Call Polka!” with his music and singing over the original videos.  He used this as one of the videos played during his 2015-16 The Mandatory Tour.  It was great then.  It’s great now.

As a Type One Diabetic, I’ve always loved his original song “Pancreas.”  It’s another perfect example of how diverse and talented an artist he is.  Can you think of anyone else who could write a song about the pancreas that a) is accurate enough to be used in biology and anatomy/physiology classes, b) brings a twinkle to a diabetic’s eye (it’s not often I get to sing along about insulin!), and c) is so damn catchy?  Granted, as a diabetic, my pancreas doesn’t work…but that makes this all the funnier!  Also, I do love singing about insulin even if the insulin I use is synthetic.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve grown with Al’s music too.  All the best parts of my life have a connection to his music!  One of the first albums I ever owned was his Even Worse.  It was a cassette, of course, and it featured his parody of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” in “Fat.”  There are so many memories when I play this album!  I’ve essentially been listening to it for twenty-four years.  While the parodies were fantastic I was struck, even as a kid, by the original songs.  It always surprises me how few people realize Al’s a talented original songwriter too.  And his originals are every bit as funny as his parodies.  Case in point, one of my favorites from Even Worse was (and remains) the closing track, “Good Old Days.”  It’s a wonderfully twisted take on nostalgia.  Here, Al performs it live on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert.

There’s nothing like live music right?  Al was the very first (and second) concert I ever saw!  I was so excited when his Bad Hair Day Tour came to town in 1996.  He was a perfect first concert memory.  I saw him again and enjoyed him just as much when he rolled through town in 1999 with his Galactic Tour.  Then I saw him most recently on The Mandatory World Tour with David and Kalie in July of 2015.  As a more seasoned concert veteran I was even more impressed with the quality of his live show.  It’s two hours of costume changes, hilarious video clips, energetic audience interaction, and great live music.  The crowd spoke to a real inter-generational love of his music which made me feel all warm and fuzzy.  Here’s Al performing “Why Does This Always Happen To Me?,” a song about surviving all the unjust trials in life, live.  This is what it’s all about!

On the live (or pseudo-live) music note, I’m a HUGE karaoke fan.  David and I have been singing karaoke with various groups of friends for well over a decade.  While I lack David’s musical talent, I’ll proudly say I still deliver a fairly decent (and awkwardly enthusiastic) karaoke performance.  I like to bring more than a little spectacle with my songs too :).  Of all my awkwardly enthusiastic performances my “greatest hit” (as it were) is easily “Amish Paradise.”  IT’S SUCH A GREAT SONG!!!  I’ve sang this one, for my own personal pleasure and by request, so many times over the years.  Who could not love this song??

“Amish Paradise” is one of Al’s songs that has far outlived the original too.  When I talk to my students, very few of them have ever heard of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” but almost all of them know “Amish Paradise.”  And, should there be any who haven’t, I’m sure to rectify that before they graduate.  I like to play the above video in my Religions of the World course when we discuss the Amish, telling them it’s the beginning of a documentary about the Amish from the early 90’s.  What can I say?  I love my job :).

While I’m on the subject of teaching, I always want to play his “Word Crimes” for my students as well.  You have NO IDEA how many of these mistakes I see regularly in the papers I correct.  While it can be vexing at times to see them again and again (and again), I take great solace in Al making it something I can enjoy and sing along to.  This should be required listening in any class where a writing assignment is given and students should listen to it before they write, in the middle of their writing, and before they revise too.

Back to karaoke, another favorite option for me is “White & Nerdy.”  It doesn’t take more than a casual glance at this blog to realize this song speaks to the core of me.  I also like to occasionally perform it after I see someone who’s every bit as white and suburban as I am do some hardcore hip hop about the dangers of life on the streets.  I like to hope they wonder if it’s related to their performance or if it’s just a random coincidence.  You gotta make your own fun you know?

David and I also enjoy doing karaoke back-to-back performances where he sings Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and then I follow immediately with Al’s “Smells Like Nirvana.”  It’s a lot of fun because we get to watch the confusion wash over the bar as everyone thinks, “Wait…um, didn’t we just hear this song?”  Then I start singing and you can feel the collective “Ooooooooooooh!” as dawning awareness hits the crowd.  I love it!

It’s not just all karaoke hijinks though.  Al is also a (perhaps surprisingly) wonderful guide through the complex realm of human relationships.  Certain moments will define your life, perhaps none more important than when your Soul Mate crosses your path and you feel the divine beauty of love fill your being.  But what do you do??  What do you say??  Thankfully, “Wanna B Ur Lovr” is here to teach us all how to talk to that special someone and share the truth of all we feel in the depths of our heart.  When words fail us, Al’s got our back.

But his guidance doesn’t stop there.  Even the best relationships can hit rough patches.  Often we’re caught unaware when a relationship we thought was strong turns out to be on shaky ground.  Al explores the very real difficulties that any relationship can stumble upon, while simultaneously offering us hope, with songs like “My Baby’s In Love With Eddie Vedder.”

Perhaps most importantly, Al helps us understand why relationships end and lets us know we aren’t the only ones to be unlucky in love.  Heartbreak is always hard but solace can be found in the timeless wisdom found in songs like “You Don’t Love Me Anymore.”

On a similar note, another of my personal favorites is “Skipper Dan.”  While not dealing with romantic woes, this song certainly showcases the beauty and hilarity of life not going the way we planned it.

If we find ourselves struggling with what life’s laid out for us, Al is always here to gently remind us that it’s not so much our fault but rather the fault lies with grand celestial bodies conspiring against us.  That’s why I’ve always loved “Your Horoscope For Today,” presented here with animation by Gallo Mallet.  If you’ve ever found enjoyment in a perusal of the ol’ daily horoscope then this one is for you too.

I could go on and on (and on (and on and on and on (and on))) with more songs of his that I love but suffice it to say I love me some “Weird Al” Yankovic.  I like to refer to him as “U.S. Poet Laureate Al Yankovic.”  I know that technically he isn’t our Poet Laureate yet but I’m hoping to help move it along.  Sooner or later the Librarian of the United States Congress has to catch on and make it official.

While our music is such a personal, intimate part of us I’m still not quite sure what it means that I love “Weird Al” Yankovic as much as I do :).  But whatever it says about me I’ll happily own it!  I like to think it speaks to my believing we needn’t always take life too seriously.  It’s okay, and even encouraged, to laugh as often as we can.  I also think Al shows joy is one of the highest goals of artistic expression.  At the end of the day, he’s dedicated his career to having fun and making people laugh.  That’s a vocation I can support and we certainly need more of it in our world.  Certain musical experiences capture but a moment in our life.  They can always take us back there and we’ll always love them for that but we ultimately outgrow them.  But the greatest musical relationships of our lives are the ones where we can grow with an artist as they continue to speak to us with new depth and meaning at different moments through our life.  I’m not being hyperbolic nor am I trying to be funny when I say that’s always been Al Yankovic for me.  And I love him for it!  “Weird Al” Yankovic has left an indelible mark on my life and I’m all the better for it.

Similar to “Lola,” Don McLean’s “American Pie” is all but erased from my mind in its original form, leaving Al’s “The Saga Begins” in its place.  While I grant “American Pie” is a classic, I think I traded up here because Al managed to take another iconic song and make it about Star Wars.  Life is ALWAYS better with more Star Wars in it.  Life is always better with more “Weird Al” Yankovic in it too because he always brings a little light, laughter, and fun along with him.  Thank you Al for all the years of music and here’s to many more to come!

Oh, okay…here’s one more.  His “Tacky” parody is every bit as catchy as “Happy” and it makes me laugh a lot more too.  Plus the cameos in this video!!!  And that zombie line?  Classic.

Alright, now I’m done.  For real.  I hope you found a song or two to make you smile here today :).   We can always use more smiles in our lives!

17 thoughts on “A “Weird Al” Yankovic Fan For Life…and PROUD Of It!

    1. Aaahh! Yes! It’s such an excellent movie! I was trying to find a way to work ‘UHF’ and some of ‘The Weird Al Show’ into the piece too. Maybe there will have to be a sequel post sometime :). And the fact that you’re a fellow Weird Al fan just made my day!!

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    1. It’s my pleasure! I’d hoped to spread a little of Al’s humor with the post and I’m happy you enjoyed it. And man, “Gump” is such a great song too! In addition to being funny, it’s a great example of how he can so perfectly capture an era/moment in pop culture too. The Presidents of the United States and that film were EVERYWHERE and he wrapped them perfectly together in that song!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I was scrolling down. And down. And down. And began to have doubts that you would mention The Saga Begins. Then it was there! Alleluia!

    The Saga Begins was how I was introduced to Weird Al. It was AMAZING. I knew the tune of American Pie, but someone had made it about The Phantom Menace. Mind. Blown. Hahaha. I ended up owning a few of his CDs after that.

    I will say though, Amish Paradise, great, great song. Didn’t Coolio get mad at him though? I feel like there was some drama around that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I last saw Al in concert his finale was Star Wars-based!!! He came out in Jedi robes and the stage filled with Stormtroopers, aliens, and even Darth Vader. Then he sang “Yoda” and “The Saga Begins.” It was brilliant!!

      The Coolio story has become an interesting part of the “Weird Al” mythos. Al’s policy is he’ll never parody a song without the artist and their record company’s okay. Coolio was fine with it and signed off on it…and then the song became really popular and he started complaining that he, “didn’t like [Al] desecrating the song like that.” Al felt horrible and it was the bad memory of the Coolio debacle that kept from from releasing his parody James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” (which he made “You’re Pitiful”). Blunt was on record for having loved the version but his record company was iffy. Not wanting a repeat of the Coolio incident, Al kept it off the record and just set it up so you could listen to it on his website it you wanted. While Coolio was (eventually) very public about his dislike of the parody, he never really took any measures to stop the song’s use in the future nor were there ever any complaints about the royalty checks he received from the project. So Alstorians (a name I just made up for people who ponder the history of Al Yankovic) debate whether or not Coolio really disliked the song from the beginning or just started to hate it when it began to eclipse his original.

      I’m glad you were happy to find “The Saga Begins” here too :). I wanted to bookend the piece with Star Wars, in a similar manner to how I like to live my life.

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  2. Somehow I missed this post when you first published it a week ago! I am earmarking it, for when I am having a less than stellar day, I can check out a video here and laugh!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, YES! That makes me happy to hear :). I hope it serves it’s purpose then and brings a smile when you need it. I’m hoping to mix some more of these fun/funny posts into the site to balance the reality of the New American Resistance/cultural critique posts. And who better to bring a smile than “Weird Al” Yankovic?!?

      Liked by 1 person

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