Who is Weird Al Yankovic?
“Weird Al” Yankovic is one of America’s leading parodists who has recorded more than 150 parodies and original songs. He is a singer, songwriter, producer, and author. With more than 12 million albums sold, as of 2007, Yankovic is also the most successful comedy recording artist of all time. It was because of his songs that parodies became mainstream entertainment. His most famous musical parodies include ‘Eat It,’ ‘Fat,’ ‘Smells Like Nirvana,’ ‘White & Nerdy,’ and ‘Word Crimes.’ ‘Eat It,’ a parody of Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It,’ was his first big hit. As an artist, he has been honored with four ‘Grammy Awards,’ his most recent being his win in 2015 for ‘Mandatory Fun.’ He has 15 ‘Grammy’ nominations to his credit. He has also scored four “gold” records and six “platinum” records in the US. Apart from music, Yankovic has also tried his luck in movies. He wrote and starred in ‘UHF’ (1989), which became a cult classic when its ‘VHS’ version was released. He has also hosted the children’s show called ‘The Weird Al Show’ and has authored children’s books such as ‘When I Grow Up’ and ‘My New Teacher and Me!’
Childhood & Early Life
Alfred Matthew Yankovic was born on October 23, 1959, in Downey, California, to Mary Elizabeth and Nick Yankovic. He spent his childhood in Lynwood.
His father was of Yugoslavian descent and had moved to California after serving in ‘World War II.’ His mother was half Italian and half English.
A day before his sixth birthday, his parents enrolled young Alfred at a local music school. Alfred learnt to play the accordion there. A salesman belonging to the school had knocked on their door to sell music classes, and Alfred’s parents chose accordion over guitar because they believed it would revolutionize rock music.
Al started taking music lessons when he was 7 years old. With time, he fell in love with rock music. He was a fan of performers such as Elton John, Allan Sherman, and Spike Jones.
He attended the ‘Lynwood High School,’ from where he graduated as a valedictorian in 1975. He earned a degree in architecture from the ‘California Polytechnic State University’ in San Luis Obispo.
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In 1976, comedian and radio personality Dr. Demento visited Yankovic’s school, where the 16-year-old Alfred gifted him his home-made CD of original and parody songs. His song ‘Belvedere Cruisin’’ was aired on Demento’s comedy radio show.
While in college, Yankovic worked as a disc jockey at the campus’ radio station. He soon earned the nickname “Weird Al,” and later adopted it as his professional nickname. In 1978, he released his first parody, ‘Take Me Down,’ which mocked the landmarks near the university.
In 1979, Yankovic recorded a parody of the hugely popular song ‘My Sharona’ by ‘The Knack’ and called it ‘My Bologna.’ Not only did it become a hit on Dr. Demento’s radio show but it was also released as a satire single by the label ‘Capitol Records.’
After graduating from college in 1980, Yankovic released ‘Another One Rides the Bus,’ a parody of the smash hit ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by ‘Queen.’ His parody became an instant hit and was followed by ‘I Love Rocky Road,’ a parody of ‘I Love Rock’ n Roll’ by ‘Joan Jett & the Blackhearts.’ The song rocked the ‘Top 40 Radio’ chart.
The success of ‘I Love Rocky Road’ led him to sign with ‘Scotti Brothers Records’ that released his debut album ‘“Weird Al” Yankovic’ in 1983.
His parody, ‘Ricky’, was based on Toni Basil’s hit ‘Mickey’ and was an ode to ‘I Love Lucy.’
He released his second album, ‘“Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D,’ in 1984. It contained the single ‘Eat It,' his parody of Michael Jackson’s cult hit ‘Beat It.’ The song was a big commercial breakthrough of his career.
'Eat It’ became hugely popular on ‘MTV’ and also remained Yankovic’s highest-charting single till the release of ‘White & Nerdy’ in 2006.
In 1986, he released ‘Dare to Be Stupid,’ which was the first-ever comedy record to be released in the CD format. ‘Like a Surgeon,’ a parody based on Madonna’s hit ‘Like a Virgin,’ was a part of this “gold” album.
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Everyone questioned Yankovic’s music career after his next album ‘Polka Party!’ failed to impress his fans. In 1988, he returned with a “platinum” album, ‘Even Worse,’ and answered everyone who had doubted his skills as a musician.
The first song of the album ‘Even Worse,’ ‘Fat,’ was a parody of Michael Jackson’s song ‘Bad.’ The music video of ‘Fat’ was shot in the same subway that was featured in the video of Michael’s hit ‘Bad’.
In 1992, he released ‘Off the Deep End,’ which featured ‘Smells Like Nirvana,’ a parody of ‘Nirvana’s hit single ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’ His 1993 album ‘Bad Hair Day’ featured the single ‘Amish Paradise,’ a parody of Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise.’ This became his most controversial parody ever, with Coolio claiming that he had never granted Alfred the permission to record a parody of the song.
His other albums are ‘Running with Scissors’ (1999); ‘Poodle Hat’ (2003); ‘Straight Outta Lynwood’ (2006) that featured ‘White & Nerdy,’ a parody of Chamillionaire’s ‘Ridin’’; and ‘Alpocalypse' (2011).
In 2014, he released his 14th studio album, ‘Mandatory Fun,’ which debuted at the top spot on the ‘Billboard Top 200’ charts. It was the first comedy album ever to debut at number one on the chart.
The song ‘Word Crimes’ from the album became his fourth ‘Top 40’ single’ and made him the third artist, after Michael Jackson and Madonna, to have a ‘Top 40’ single since the 1980s.
In 2018, he released a song called ‘The Hamilton Polka Online,’ a medley inspired by the musical ‘Hamilton.’ It is the first polka song to find a place on the ‘Billboard Digital Songs Sales Chart.’
Other Major Works
In 1985, he co-wrote and starred in a mockumentary called ‘The Compleat Al,’ based on his own life. Around the same time, his autobiography, ‘The Authorized Al,’ was published.
In 1988, he narrated for Sergei Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf.’ In 1989, he wrote and starred in the film ‘UHF,’ which later became a video hit.
In 1997, he hosted the ‘Weird Al Show’ on ‘CBS.’ He also appeared on TV shows such as ‘How I Met Your Mother’ (2011), ‘30 Rock’ (2012), and ‘Drunk History’ (2014).
He also wrote two children’s books, namely, ‘When I Grow Up’ (2011) and ‘My New Teacher and Me’ (2013). In 2015, he became the cover boy of ‘MAD’ magazine.
Awards & Achievements
Yankovic is a four-time ‘Grammy’ winner. He won the prestigious award for ‘Eat It’ (1985), ‘Fat’ (1989), ‘Poodle Hat’ (2004), and ‘Mandatory Fun’ (2015).
In 2017, an announcement stated that Yankovic would have his own “star” on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ in 2018.
Yankovic married Suzanne Krajewski in 2001. The couple has a daughter, Nina, who was born in 2003.
He lives in Los Angeles with his family. He has never been addicted to drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.