There are a ton of artists whose name begins with "W." The problem is that I haven't heard about most of them. As I like to stray from the well beaten path, I do so again today. My subject has earned several Grammy Awards but not so much for his musical excellence but more for recording other people's music.
I present for your amusement and information Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic. Weird Al made a name for himself recording parodies of other artists hit songs.
Al was born on October 23, 1959, in Downey, CA. Al's father was Nicholas Louis Yankovic. His mother was Mary Elizabeth Yankovic. Al was a nerd through his school years. He was his high school class Valedictorian. He attended California Polytechnic State University where he earned a degree in Architecture.
Al's introduction began on October 22, 1965, when he started taking accordion lessons at a local music school. It seems that a door to door salesman offered the Yankovic's a chance for Al to learn to play the Guitar or the Accordion. They chose the accordion because there was already a famous accordion player named Frankie Yankovic and because they believed that the accordion would revolutionize Rock and Roll.
Al was influenced to perform song parodies by early masters of that art form, Tom Lehrer, Alan Sherman, Stan Freberg and Spike Jones. Also, in 1976 Dr. Demento spoke at Al's school. Dr. Demento was a nationally syndicated DJ who played song parodies and novelty songs. Young Al gave Dr. D a tape of his original songs at the school when the good doctor spoke. Dr. D played it on his radios show and Weird Al was discovered.
During his time in college Weird Al had his own radio show. His schoolmates called him weird so he called his on-air persona "Weird Al" and he has be Weird Al ever since.
Al has done parodies of many artists songs. Al always spoke to the artist he parodied and got their permission before he released the parody of their songs. In interviews Al has said most consider Al doing a parody of their songs to be a sign that they had achieved success as an artist. There have been a few artists who have denied permission to parody their songs and Al has honored their denial.
Some notable song parodies are Nirvana's "Smells like Teen Spirit (Smells Like Nirvana); Michael Jackson's Bad (I'm Fat) and Beat It (Eat It); Dire Straits Money for Nothing (Money for nothing/Beverly Hillbillies).
Weird Al has used the same back-up band musicians since his first tour. He keeps busy with recording albums and touring around the country and the world performing his songs and song parodies to the amusements of fans young and old. Al has a reputation of keeping his shows and record family friendly.
You might say that Weird Al Yankovic is the comic relief of the Rock and Roll world. We can all use a laugh now and then!