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Music Feature: Weird Al Yankovic

The Master of Mockery

Given his role as modern-day pop music’s premiere song satirist, Weird Al Yankovic carries on the tradition of idols Allan Sherman, Frank Zappa and Spike Jones with a dash of Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker parody movies in giving a subversive twist not only to other people’s songs, but pop culture as well. Since getting his break by twisting The Knack’s 1979 smash into “My Bologna” and getting airplay on Dr. Demento’s radio show, Yankovic has wielded his formidable accordion skills and penchant for polka to poke fun at a wide range of artists, earning plenty of famous fans and a few rejections along the way.

Michael Jackson – An early celebrity supporter of Weird Al, Jackson gave the nod for his “Beat It” and “Bad” to be transformed into “Eat It” and “Fat” respectively. The late pop star went so far as to let Yankovic use the same video set for “Fat” that was originally built for Jackson’s “Bad” video.


Madonna – Weird Al went two-for-two in spoofing ’80s pop icons when he took the Material Girl’s “Like a Virgin” and twisted it into “Like a Surgeon” for 1985’s Dare to Be Stupid.

Chamillionaire – The Washington D.C. native credits Yankovic’s “White & Nerdy,” (a parody of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’”), for his 2007 Grammy win because of the awareness the accordion-wielding parodist heightened with his spoof. Chamillionaire went as far as to post “White & Nerdy” on his official MySpace page before Yankovic put it on his own page.

Nirvana – Yankovic recorded “Smells Like Nirvana,” spoofing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with the thrust of his version being how no one could understand what Kurt Cobain was singing about. Cobain gave his blessing and Dave Grohl was quoted as saying that he felt Nirvana “made it” after Yankovic parodied his band.

Paul McCartney – Macca may be an admirer of Yankovic’s comedic skills, but not enough to betray his vegetarian beliefs after he was asked if Wings’ “Live and Let Die” could be recast as “Chicken Pot Pie.” And while McCartney found it to be in poor taste, Yankovic allegedly performs it in concert on occasion with other parodies that artists didn’t give permission for or spoofs unable to be released for different reasons.

Led Zeppelin – Yet another avowed Yankovic fan, guitarist Jimmy Page refused to give him permission to create a polka medley of Led Zeppelin songs. He did, however, allow Weird Al to re-record a sample of “Black Dog” for a portion of “Trapped in the Drive-Thru,” his take on R. Kelly’s epic “Trapped in the Closet.”

Coolio – When Yankovic spun “Gangsta’s Paradise” into “Amish Paradise” back in 1996, it was with the understanding by the rapper’s label Coolio had given his blessing. This was in fact not the case and while Coolio publicly declared being upset about it all, he nonetheless accepted royalty payments. The duo later made peace at the XM Satellite Radio booth during the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show.

Dire Straits – Mark Knopfler gave the nod for Weird Al to turn the Dire Straits smash “Money for Nothing” into “Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies,” with the lyrics revolving around the hillbilly sitcom on the condition Knopfler be allowed to re-record his guitar parts for Yankovic’s version.

James Blunt – The sensitive British singer-songwriter gave Yankovic permission to recast his smash “You’re Beautiful” as “You’re Pitiful,” before Blunt’s employers, Atlantic Records, rescinded said permission, despite the fact the parody had already been released. When Yankovic’s version was pulled from the Straight Outta Lynwood album, he fought back by releasing it as a free download on his MySpace profile and his official website and still plays it in concert.

Eminem – While Eminem gave the nod for Yankovic to spoof “Lose Yourself” by way of “Couch Potato,” he refused to give him permission to release it as a single or make a video of it due to his concern that it would hurt his reputation.

Weird Al Yankovic @ The Theatre at Westbury
960 Brush Hollow Rd. 8 p.m. $50. 877-598-8694.

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