I've been a music buff since childhood, and I enjoy writing about and reviewing my favorites.
"Weird Al" Rocks!
In his more than three decades as a recording artist, funnyman "Weird Al" Yankovic has elevated himself to the position of High Priest of Pop Music Parody. When he first achieved prominence in the early '80s thanks to Doctor Demento's radio show, Al's accordion-laced parodies of current hits (i.e. Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" became "Another One Rides the Bus," the Knack's "My Sharona" became "My Bologna") seemed destined for a quick trip to "one-hit wonder" land ala "Disco Duck," or even worse, permanent "novelty item" status.
If you still want to call him a novelty act today, then Weird Al has become one of the most successful "novelty acts" of all time, selling over 12 million albums and earning numerous Grammy Awards over the course of his career. In fact, Al has outlasted many of the one-hit wonders whose music he's parodied!
Al's not a one-trick pony. Parodies of other people's songs aren't all he does, and each of Al's studio albums contains its share of hilarious original songs (some of my favorites include "Dare to Be Stupid," the brilliant "Nature Trail to Hell," and "This Is the Life," the theme song to the cult comedy film "Johnny Dangerously"), but parodies remain his bread and butter.
Here are my ten favorite Al parodies, many of which were made successful thanks to his trademark irreverent music videos. Each is well worth investigating, even if you aren't familiar with the song he's making fun of.
10. "Jurassic Park" (1993)
Richard Harris' late '60s chestnut "MacArthur Park" is widely considered to be one of the worst songs ever recorded (who can forget that tear-jerking, overwrought chorus about someone leaving the cake out in the rain?), which made it ripe for a parody.
In Al's version based on the dinosaur-movie hit, he laments that "someone turned the fence off in the rain," and that he thinks the dinosaurs "are out to harm me, 'cause they sure don't act like Barney." The track was accompanied by a hilarious Claymation video in which "Barney" gets his head bitten off by a T-Rex, and when Al gets swallowed by a dinosaur, he discovers a souvenir stand inside the beast's stomach, where a grinning employee tries to sell him an "I Got Eaten Alive at Jurassic Park" t-shirt.
9. "Amish Paradise" (1996)
Al's 1996 take off on Coolio's hit "Gangsta's Paradise" turned a gritty tale of the urban streets into a lighthearted treatise on the simplicity of Amish life ("As I walk through the valley where I harvest my grain, I take a look at my wife and realize…she's very plain.") This song also represents one of the rare times that Weird Al courted controversy with a parody.
As a rule, when Al wants to do a take-off on a hit song, he contacts the songwriter/composer for permission. In the case of "Amish Paradise," someone at Coolio's management apparently gave Al the idea that it was OK to take on "Gangsta's Paradise," but Coolio himself never approved of the idea and was very vocal about Al's "desecration" of his song.
The two eventually mended fences, but Al has been very careful ever since about making sure to speak to the artist directly to get permission, rather than going through their management or record label.
8. "I Lost on Jeopardy" (1984)
This parody is probably better known nowadays than the original song, "Jeopardy," by early '80s rocker Greg Kihn. While Kihn's original was a tale of love gone wrong, Al's version tells the story of his disastrous experience as a contestant on the TV game show.
Al finds himself up against "a plumber and an architect, both with a Ph.D." and is quickly crushed in the game ("Well I got the Daily Double now... and then my mind went blank!"). The song came complete with a guest voice appearance by original "Jeopardy" announcer Don Pardo telling Al what he didn't win ("You don't even get a lousy copy of our home game!") before dismissing him as "a complete loser."
Along with Pardo and original "Jeopardy" host Art Fleming, Greg Kihn himself made a cameo in the song's music video. Fun fact: the current long-running TV revival of "Jeopardy" premiered three months after this video.
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7. "I Love Rocky Road" (1982)
Al takes on Joan Jett's "I Love Rock N Roll" in this accordion-filled ode to his favorite ice cream flavor. The ultra-low-budget video for this track is a hoot, with a leather-jacket-clad Yankovic appropriating all of Jett's tough-gal moves in an ice cream parlor, sneering out lyrics like "Chocolate's gettin' old, vanilla just leaves me cold." I bet even Joan Jett herself would gladly sit down and "have a triple scoop" with Al for his fine work on this track.
6. "The Saga Begins" (1999)
"The Saga Begins" wasn't Al's first song to be inspired by the "Star Wars" saga (see my #1 pick for that), but it was definitely his most ambitious. Ingeniously blending the storyline of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" with the music of Don McLean's "American Pie," Al re-tells the story of a "small fry" who "left home and kissed his Mommy goodbye, saying soon I'm gonna be a Jedi."
Both Don McLean and George Lucas have professed their love for this parody, with McLean admitting that he occasionally slips into Al's version while performing "American Pie" in concert.
5. "Smells Like Nirvana" (1992)
Al had been out of the spotlight for a couple of years after the disastrous response to his movie debut, 1989's "UHF," but he entered the 1990s in fine style and scored a major hit with this takeoff on Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
Using the same sets as Nirvana's video and a lot of the same actors and crew, the clip caused many MTV viewers to do a double-take when it aired! Al's version got a rabid "thumbs up" from the Nirvana band members, who said that being parodied by Weird Al was a sign that they'd truly "made it."
4. "Eat It" (1984)
Nobody was bigger than Michael Jackson in 1984, and Al wisely chose to hitch a ride on the M.J. bandwagon with this takeoff on "Beat It." Once again, a song about a serious topic—street fights between gangs—became an ode to foodstuffs once Al got through with it.
The video for the song was a pitch-perfect copy of the "Beat It" video, with Al sporting an MJ-style red leather jacket with multitudes of zippers on it, and a pair of street toughs battling it out in an old warehouse with forks and spoons rather than switchblades. Al would continue his Jackson association with 1988's Even Worse album, which featured "Fat," the classic parody of MJ's "Bad."
3. "Gump" (1996)
The Presidents of the United States of America were a goofy pop-grunge band whose (thankfully) lone hit, "Lump," was quite possibly the most irritating song of the mid-1990s. Al took the tune and turned it into an ode to Tom Hanks' film "Forrest Gump," complete with a Hanks lookalike passing out chocolates on a park bench for the accompanying video.
I still can't stand the original "Lump" but I have to give Al credit for taking the track and turning it into something entertaining and listenable!! Wherever The Presidents of the United States of America are now, I bet they wish they'd had half of Al's knack for writing memorable humorous, goofy songs!!
2. "Ricky" (1983)
When I first saw "Ricky" on MTV sometime in 1983 I wasn't quite sure what the heck I was witnessing. "Ricky" was a pretty bizarre sight for a 13-year-old who was used to seeing Styx, Motley Crue, and Loverboy videos on the channel—a Ricky Ricardo impersonator playing an approximation of Toni Basil's irritating hit "Mickey" on the accordion while a Lucille Ball lookalike cavorted around, whining and begging "Ricky" to let her "be in the show."
My reaction was probably something along the lines of "What the $%#! is this?"…but just like the original "Mickey," "Ricky" was almost Satanically catchy, to the point that before long I found myself humming the tune (and singing along in a bad impression of Ricky's voice). Fun fact: "Lucy" was portrayed by actress Tress Macnelle, who now provides a multitude of voices on "The Simpsons."
1. "Yoda" (1985)
This ode to the diminutive Jedi Master of the "Star Wars" saga, set to the tune of the Kinks' classic "Lola," is my favorite Al parody and has been since I first heard it way back in 1985. Al's band totally nails the flavor of the original and the lyrics are gut-bustingly inspired:
"I know Darth Vader's really got you annoyed, but remember if you kill him then you'll be unemployed…"
To be honest, I know the lyrics to "Yoda" better than I know the ones for "Lola," and if "Lola" comes on the radio in the car, I've been known to belt out the "Yoda" lyrics over it on more than one occasion…which has caused me to get some strange looks from fellow motorists when I'm stuck in traffic!
The Hits Keep on Coming
Weird Al Yankovic has shown no signs of slowing down in the 21st century. His 2011 album Alpocalypse, featured parodies of songs by current favorites like Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and Miley Cyrus and his concert tours continue to draw faithful crowds of devotees. My only problem is that as I get older, I don't keep track of who's in the top 40…so many times I'm not familiar with some of the songs Al's making fun of.
2013 marked the 30th anniversary of the release of Al's debut album, and his newest CD, Mandatory Fun, became his first-ever #1 album on Billboard when it was released in July 2014. Not bad for a guy that many in the record industry predicted would be a "one-hit wonder!"
Between the constant flow of new material and his frequent appearances on TV, in movies, and other media, it looks like Weird Al doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon. Long live the Crown Prince of Comedy Pop, and keep it Weird!
© 2012 Keith Abt
Meggan Dunn from Winnie, TX on February 06, 2015:
My favorites "Just Kidding" "You Don't You Love Me Anymore"
M. T. Dremer from United States on February 05, 2015:
Though I grew up in the late 80s/early 90s, most of the songs Al was parodying, I had never heard. So, I also find myself hearing Al when those songs come on a radio. He's definitely an inspiration, considering he turned what was otherwise a niche punchline into a lucrative career. More power to him!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on February 05, 2015:
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 19, 2014:
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on January 28, 2014:
Right on, PegCole17. Al's now got 30 years in song parody under his belt, and he's still the man!!
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on January 28, 2014:
Weird Al is among our favorites when we need a good laugh. I love "Amish Paradise" and "Gump". What a great sense of humor he has.
oldiesmusic from United States on January 27, 2014:
I have his CD "Running With Scissors" which contains "The Saga Begins". I love many of his songs in your list. "Smells Like Nirvana" and "Amish Paradise" are my most favorites there. Like that guy much, not only he makes funny songs but he also transcends all genres, he's a very versatile artist. :)
Muttface from Portugal on December 03, 2013:
Love 'Eat it'! Never heard of any of the other ones.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on November 01, 2013:
Hi Keava - you're right, I had forgotten about "Peaches" ... mainly because I hated that song...haha!!
Keava the Diva on November 01, 2013:
Lump was not the Presidents' only hit. Peaches was on the radio approximately every 5 minutes somewhere during my childhood. That being said, I love Al's original works that are stylistically influenced by different artists. You Make Me comes to mind as a great original in DEVO style. My absolute, hands down favorite is "Everything You Know is Wrong" for originals of his.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 24, 2013:
Hi Cantuhearmescream - I am indeed familiar with Al's Crash Test Dummies parody ("Headline News"), that one actually almost made the cut for this piece... glad you enjoyed, thanx for stopping by!
Cat from New York on March 24, 2013:
Ah, I can't believe you have a hub dedicated to Weird Al; how awesome! The guy used to scare me as a child, but once I understood him I couldn't stop laughing. I think you did quite a job listing many of his songs, some I didn't even know about. I didn't see anyone mention his parody of Crash Test Dummies "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm". If you haven't seen it you should check it out, it's even funnier if you are familiar with the original song. Thumbs up and Awesome
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on November 10, 2012:
Thanx Geekdom. I swear you're about the dozenth person who's recommended "White and Nerdy," if I ever expand this list to a top 20, it's gonna have to be in there!!
Geekdom on November 10, 2012:
I love Weird AL. The guy is a genius. Not only are his songs funny but because they cross genres you get to have a variety of music on every album (that might have dated me) you listen to.
Hard to pick a top 10 but I would add
Dare To Be Stupid
White and Nerdy.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 28, 2012:
Hi Steve... If this had been a top 15 or top 20, "Fat" definitely would've made the cut....as you can see, he's had so many good songs that it's tough to boil it down to just ten!!
Steve on October 28, 2012:
Where is "Fat"? The opening scene where he is confronted by the obese gangsters in the video is absolutely hilarious. Who could forget the memorable lyric "When you're going up for seconds, I'm going for twenty-thirds. When I'm going for a shoeshine, I've gotta take their word!"
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on October 24, 2012:
Hi duckbrador... I can't argue with either of those picks, love'em both ..."Dare to Be Stupid" is my favorite Al record... it just goes to show how many good parodies Al has done over the years, it's hard to compile a "definitive" list. Thanx for reading.
duckbrador from Canada on October 24, 2012:
I got to this hub a little late. I think 2 songs are missing from this list, Huey Lewis and the News' I Want a New Drug, called I Want a New Duck and Cyndi Lauper's Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun, called Girls just wanna have lunch. Both are off Dare to be Stupid.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on July 07, 2012:
Thanks for noticing though. Now that I'm middle aged I can't always trust my self-editing skills...hahahaha
James on July 07, 2012:
Yeah, I noticed after I sent the first one that you did have it correct 2 other times. Hey, I've worked with Fred and Jeff for 22 years and every blue moon I will walk by Jeff and say "hey Fred". crap happens we can't control. LOL
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on July 06, 2012:
Woops, thanx for the catch James... wow, where the hell did Don Henley come from? I named Don McLean in two other places in the same paragraph.... damn brain farts, haha. Will fix!!
James on July 06, 2012:
just one correction. the song American Pie is by Don Mclean not Henley for THE SAGA BEGINS.
as always great hub
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 31, 2012:
I would LOVE to see Weird Al in the RNR Hall of Fame, I'd say he definitely deserves the honor.
It would also be cool to see him play the Super Bowl, though I gotta tell ya, I tried starting a campaign on Facebook to get Motorhead on the Super Bowl a couple of years ago and it never really went anywhere... hahaha. Thanks for dropping by.
CJ Baker from Parts Unknown on March 31, 2012:
Thanks for the hub!
I love Weird Al! He is the clown prince of rock n' roll, and he deserves to be in the rock n' roll hall of fame. There is also an online campaign right now to get Weird Al to play the 2012 Super Bowl half time show. That would be awesome. Here is the link if anyone wanted to sign the Super Bowl Half time Show petition:
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 24, 2012:
Thanx Shinkicker, glad you enjoyed!!
Shinkicker from Scotland on March 24, 2012:
He's a living legend, very witty interpretations. I love the Nirvana spoof.
Sometimes the songs go on too long, I find that with all musical spoofs. It's hard to keep the joke going. Good videos help though. But no doubt he's a funny guy.
Cheers FatFreddysCat. Marked up
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 13, 2012:
Haven't heard that one, RichZ - but I'm gonna have to check it out now, thanks for the tip!
RichZ on March 12, 2012:
Al did A PArody of offspring's "Pretty Fly For a White Guy" titled "Pretty Fly For a Rabbi". There was no official video release for it, but I thought it was one of his best.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 10, 2012:
Thanx Alastar - Al's most recent album "Alpocalypse" was released in 2011 and he's on tour right now. In fact, someone at my office is going to see him in concert in May...and I'm jealous. Haha.
Alastar Packer from North Carolina on March 10, 2012:
Funny stuff Freddy. Thanks for putting these together. What's the Priest of pop Music Parody up to nowadays days?
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 08, 2012:
Thanx Son, THR, and Joker!
theJOKERiv on March 08, 2012:
Great hub as always!!!! I saw Weird Al years ago and it was a lot of fun! BTW - UHF is now a cult classic, I tend to watch it anytime it is on TV
TheHeavyReview on March 07, 2012:
Oh wow this is hilarious! Great hub FFC! I think "Yoda" might be my favorite, too. I'd never heard "I Love Rocky Road" before. I would also add "Fat" and "Like a Surgeon". Those were pretty good. Definitely voted up and funny!
SonQuioey10 on March 07, 2012:
Honestly, of all of Leslie Nielsen's movies, me either : D
That song is what I enjoyed the most of that one.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 07, 2012:
Yeah, I have vague memories of "Spy Hard" -- Al's song and the Bond-style opening credit sequence must've been the best parts of that flick, cuz I honestly don't remember anything else about it! Haha
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on March 07, 2012:
Thanks h-h... you're already the second person to tell me that I should've included "White & Nerdy" in this list, haha... It's a cool tune but I guess I haven't "lived" with it as long as the others I mentioned. Thanks for your comment.
dylmyster12 on March 07, 2012:
it was a funny movie though
SonQuioey10 on March 07, 2012:
I love Weird Al, he's an comedic icon. I loved his latest one and the video, Party in the CIA, that was fun. He's got fun videos and songs.
One that came back to me was when he wrote a song for the movie, Spy Hard. It was a rip-off done by Leslie Nielsen in the form of a 007 movie. Such a funny guy.
hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on March 07, 2012:
I've been a Weird Al fan since "Eat it" and never looked back. But my favorite isn't listed here: "White and Nerdy." The part with Donnie Osmond just kills me!
Interesting and voted up!