By Shannon Jay
Weird Al Yankovic recently received a star on the Walk of Fame after 40 years in the industry. With parody songs reflecting every genre and pop hit since the 80s, his influence on pop culture is rightfully – and quite literally – cemented. It’s not all funny business, though, as Yankovic has showcased some true character and cultural impacts on and off the charts.
Chamillionaire himself owes Al his “Ridin’ Dirty” success
in an interview with NPR, Yankovic tells an anecdote about his favorite reaction of all the artists he parodied, unfolding the story of “White and Nerdy” (featuring an early cameo from Key and Peele). After winning the Grammy for Best Rap Song, the Texas rapper spotted Al on the red carpet and thanked him personally. “I think your parody is a big reason why I won this Grammy,” he told Al, “because you made it undeniable that my song was the rap song of the year.”
The boy can hold a note
Yankovic proved his singing chops for the opening title sequence of “Spy Hard,” a full pastiche introduction from 1965 James Bond film “Thunderball.” The mimic was legit, utilizing silhouettes and even orchestration from “For Your Eyes Only” conductor Bill Conti. Al finished with the same drawn-out note that supposedly made original theme singer Tom Jones pass out. Planning to loop for comical length, Yankovic apparently found it in himself to stretch it out naturally – until his head exploded, anyway.
He stays down with his day 1’s
While lots of other musicians change up their bandmates every few years, Yankovic has had the same band pretty much his whole career. Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz has been there since the beginning when his first hit parody of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” came to be. He was even there for Al’s first television performance of the track, manning goofy horns and a box instead of conventional drums. Steve Jay and Jim “Kimo” West came on not too much later to help with the debut.
Parodies helped usher in Gangster Rap
The father of pop parodies may have inspired Dr. Dre, a forefather of gangsta rap. Just above the genre’s mecca (a little north from Compton in Downey), Weird Al’s success with “Another One Rides The Bus” jump-started gangster rap’s goofy roots. Dre’s earliest production was a silly song called “Monster Rapping,” about famous ghouls becoming friends. Shawn Brown’s “Rappin’ Duke” came soon after, referenced later in Biggie Smalls’ “Juicy” to show how far (and more serious) the genre had become. Al earned a mention in the Last Podcast on the Left’s episode about him and Tupac’s death, which is an intriguing trilogy full of just as unsuspecting twists.
He’s considerate and charitable
When Al first tried to parody Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way,” her management originally denied its commercial release, which held up his 2011 album. Under copyright law, he could’ve released it anyway and profited, but chose to honor his engrained ethics of intellectual property. He did released it, but gave all profits to the Human Rights Campaign to support themes in the original track. Gaga’s manager later admitted, however, he never ran it by the artist – even after making Al record the song for review. Lady Gaga later granted permission after Al posted it online, and his fourteenth album was complete.