Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic (born October 23, 1959) is an American musician, parodist and accordion player. He is known in particular for humorous songs which satirize popular culture and/or parody specific songs by contemporary musical acts.
He first started playing the accordion one day before his seventh birthday, mastering the instrument by age ten.
After hearing Dr. Demento (a comedy radio program featuring humorous music), Al sent the Doctor a tape of a song entitled "Belvedere Cruising" in 1976. Al was a senior at Lynwood High School in Lynwood, California at the time, but that tape was the start of his eventual career.
Three years later, Al was an architecture student and a disc jockey at the Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo radio station (KCPR). Since "My Sharona" by The Knack was on the charts and the Knack was going to play at Cal Poly, Al took his accordion into the bathroom across from the listening booth and recorded a parody entitled "My Bologna". The Knack thought it was funny, and arranged for the song to be released on their label, Capitol Records, which gave Al a six-month contract.
In 1980, Al was working the mail room at Westwood One, Dr. Demento's radio network at the time, when he announced he had another parody. Jon Schwartz was also there, and he was a percussionist, so he was recruited to bang on Al's accordion case. The resulting performance of "Another One Rides the Bus" was a parody of a Queen hit, "Another One Bites the Dust".
1981 brought Al on tour for the first time as part of Dr. Demento's act. His performances were particularly interesting as few, if any, people at the time were doing parodies of rock and roll songs on accordion. His stage act caught the eye of manager Jay Levey, who loved it and became Al's manager. Jay insisted that the act would sound better if Al had a full band, so he held auditions. Steve Jay became Al's bass player, and Jim West the lead guitarist. With Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz on drums, the band was complete.
Al claims to have been inspired by Allan Sherman, whose portrait in miniature (with name) can be found by the observant on the cover of Al's first album.
Since the mid-1990s, Al has performed annually at the Minnesota State Fair.
Though he is best known for his song parodies, Yankovic has recorded a greater number of original humorous songs, such as "Why does this Always Happen to Me?" and "Hardware Store". Yankovic's work depends largely on the satirizing of popular culture, including television, movies, food, popular music, and sometimes issues in contemporary news. Although many of his songs are parodies of contemporary radio hits, it is rare that the song's primary topic is the lampooning of that artist. Yankovic's humor lies more in creating unexpected incongruity between an artist's image and the topic of the song, contrasting the style of the song with its content, or in pointing out trends or works which have become pop culture cliches. Some of his original songs are "style parodies," where he chooses a band's entire body of work to honor/parody rather than any single hit by that band; some bands so honored have been Devo (Dare to be Stupid) and They Might Be Giants (Everything You Know is Wrong).
Yankovic has received three Grammy Awards and will be eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, although he says, "I think my chances of ever making it into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame are about as good as Milli Vanilli's."
The popularity of Al's music among users of Internet file sharing networks has led to many parody or comedy songs being made available as Weird Al tracks which in fact have no connection to him. One major victim of this seems to be Bob Rivers, but so many such wrongly attributed tracks exist that several fans have set up websites attempting to list such tracks along with their real artists. It has been pointed out that this not only deprives the real artists involved of credit for their creations, but sometimes associates Al's name with types of music he would never produce and would not want to be known for.
On April 9, 2004, Al's parents, Nick Louis Yankovic, 86, and Mary, 81, were found dead in their Fallbrook, California home, apparently the victims of carbon monoxide poisoning. The night after their bodies were found, Al went on with his concert in Mankato, Minnesota, saying that since his music had helped many of his fans through tough times, maybe it would work for him as well.
Since Al got a record contract in 1983, he has released many albums and parodies. The following is a comprehensive list of his albums to 2003:
"Weird Al" Yankovic - 1983
"Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D - 1984
Dare to Be Stupid - 1985
Polka Party - 1986
Even Worse - 1988
UHF (movie soundtrack) - 1989
Off The Deep End - 1992
Alapalooza - 1994
Bad Hair Day - 1996
Running With Scissors - 1999
Poodle Hat - 2003
Greatest Hits - 1988
The Food Album - 1993
Permanent Record - Al in the Box - 1994
Greatest Hits - Volume II - 1994
The TV Album - 1995
"Polkamon" (Pokémon The Movie 2000 (soundtrack) - 2000)
Theme from "Spy Hard" (Spy Hard soundtrack - 1996)
Yankovic's hit songs from his albums include:
"Eat It" (Michael Jackson's "Beat It")
"Like a Surgeon" (Madonna's "Like a Virgin")
"Fat" (Michael Jackson's "Bad")
"Smells Like Nirvana" (Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit")
"Amish Paradise" (Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise")
In addition to parodies such as these, most of Al's albums include a medley of popular songs played in polka style, as well as original songs with his own lyrics and words. Originals such as "Melanie" and "Albuquerque" are favorites of many of his fans.
UHF- 1989: A commercially unsuccessful movie satirizing the television industry, starring Yankovic, Michael Richards, and Victoria Jackson.
Babalu Music - 1991: A collection of I Love Lucy music.
Peter and the Wolf - 1988: "This warped classical children's record featuring narration and poems written by "Weird Al" Yankovic and music arranged, composed and performed by synthesizer whiz Wendy Carlos" - Weirdal.com
Al has hosted AL-TV on MTV many years, generally coinciding with the release of each new album. For Poodle Hat, however, AL-TV appeared on VH1. The most popular part of AL-TV is Al manipulating interviews especially commissioned for AL-TV by the network for comic effect.
VH1 produced a Behind the Music episode on Al. Al is so clean-cut that the producers couldn't find any of the typical angst-laced problems that make many rock stars' stories compelling (as Al noted in an interview with BTM) , so their angle was on Al's life as a bachelor and (what they presumed was) his loneliness. (Also, the commercial failures of "UHF" and Polka Party.) However, since the taping, Al has married. He and his wife, Suzanne, recently had an infant daughter, Nina.
Al has also made a number of cameo appearances in films such as The Naked Gun.