|Weird Al Yankovic|
“There is a form of laughter that springs from the heart, heard every day in the merry voice of childhood, the expression of a laughter — loving spirit that defies analysis by the philosopher, which has nothing rigid or mechanical in it, and totally without social significance. Bubbling spontaneously from the heart of child or man. Without egotism and full of feeling, laughter is the music of life”.
What is very valuable, but attainable without paying any price? There may be several things that fit as an answer, but the one thing that comes to my mind quickly is a sense of humor. How important is it to possess a sense of humor? Extremely! You see, when I speak of a sense of humor, it does not mean that you need the talent to tell jokes like a comedian. The important aspect of possessing a sense of humor is how you view yourself. If you notice in the above quotation the statement, “without egotism”, it basically means that you cannot take yourself too seriously. It also implies that an individual should be able to laugh and have fun at the comedy of others.
The reason I chose the quotation from William Osler is because as a physician he realized the value of laughter for personal health. He also was well known as a practical joker. As all of us are involved in every day efforts to finance our businesses and households, it would seem that most of the time there is very little comedy to be found on a daily basis. Even within the musical industry, which many may feel is not as serious and may be taken lightly; there is an underlying atmosphere of serious business. Remember, the entertainment industry overall pulls in billions of dollars in revenue and music is a large part of the monetary gain. Most persons involved in the industry will tell you that with so much money at stake, there is no room for levity. After saying this we are introduced to an entertainer like Al Yankovic. Yes, Weird Al Yankovic of music parody fame. As his career approaches forty years he certainly has found a place in the music industry. However, how serious can we take his musical productions?
First of all Weird Al Yankovic is not just a parodist. Alfred Matthew Yankovic is an American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, satirist, actor, music video director, film producer, and author. He has been actively involved in each aspect during his entire career. His works have earned him three Grammy Awards and a further 11 nominations, four gold records, and six platinum records in the United States. He has also sold more than 12 million albums—more than any other comedy act in history—recorded more than 150 parody and original songs, and performed more than 1,000 live shows. Well, those sales numbers show that even though Weird Al may be having fun and making us laugh, he is also receiving critical acclaim and making lots of money.
Last week Yankovic released his fourteenth studio album Mandatory Fun to an audience poised to listen and laugh even more. I listened and loved the album, and I’m sure it will be a successful release. With all the popular albums to his credit, it’s easy to see that what has really driven his achievements like so many other artists was the introduction of the music video. In 1983, Yankovic’s first self-titled album was released on Scotti Bros. The song “Ricky” was released as a single and the music video received exposure on the still-young MTV. Yankovic released his second album “Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D in 1984. The first single “Eat It”, a parody of the Michael Jackson song “Beat It”, became popular, thanks in part to the music video, a shot-for-shot parody of Jackson’s “Beat It” music video. Peaking at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 14, 1984, “Eat It” remained Yankovic’s highest-charting single until “White & Nerdy” placed at number 9 in October 2006. “Eat It” was constantly requested and played so much, I think I wanted to see it as much as Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.
Although many of Yankovic’s songs are parodies of contemporary radio hits, it is rare that the song’s primary topic lampoons the original artist as a person, or the song itself. Most Yankovic songs consist of the original song’s music, with a separate, unrelated set of amusing lyrics.
Under the “fair use” provision of U.S. copyright law, affirmed by the United States Supreme Court, artists such as Yankovic do not need permission to record a parody. However, as a personal rule and as a means of maintaining good relationships, Yankovic has always sought permission from the original artist before commercially releasing a parody.
Michael Jackson, among many other musicians, was a big fan of Weird Al. Yankovic stated many artists who approve consider Yankovic’s parodies to be a badge of honor and rite of passage in the music industry. I can imagine that once Weird Al parodies one of your songs, it further validates it as a hit. If Pharrell Williams did not believe that his song “Happy” was a huge hit, he now knows it true as Weird Al has turned it into “Tacky“. Take a moment from all the seriousness and possible sadness of life, and listen to Weird Al Yankovic and laugh. After all, Laughter is the Music of Life.