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“Weird Al” Yankovic: The Most Durable Artist of All Time

September 1, 2015

“Weird Al” Yankovic: The Most Durable Artist of All Time
A Serious Tribute to a Funny Artist
By Geoff Stephen

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It’s not even a contest.

Shall I count the ways?

1.He has always looked about 39 years old.

To borrow a game from Jane Lynch’s Hollywood Game Night, try to arrange these pictures in order from earliest to most recent (answers are in the footnotes*). The photos range from 1985 – 2011, it should be easy, but it ain’t!

al

2.He has always/never been cool.

Whether moustached/moustache-less, short/long hair, Hawaiian shirt or, well always Hawaiian shirt, he’s man of his own style. So he’s never really in or out of anyone else’s.

3.He has the Seinfeld appeal.

Critics might (incorrectly) say he’s making seemingly obvious observations & wordplays. But keep in mind, his material is always clean. It’s not shock value that wears thin after repeated listens. It’s often much more intelligent than critics acknowledge, it’s always fun, and it’s even more fun to quote his lyrics with fellow fans. He’s also got a bit of the Ellen Degeneres appeal, where 4-year olds & their grandparents can enjoy singing along together.

4.People don’t realize how talented he is

He’s exceptional at the accordion. His attention to detail with his parodies is meticulous. He doesn’t sing along to a karaoke track; the band recreates the tunes note-for-note.

But that’s only part of his skill set. His original tunes are often even stronger than his popular covers. In addition to being a gifted lyricist, he’s a dramatically under-appreciated songwriter.

And that’s still only focusing on the audio. His on-screen performances are hilarious, including his own music promos, his legendary Al Music special on Canada’s MuchMusic, his cameos in everything from The Naked Gun 33 and 1/3 to Wet Hot American Summer, and his starring role in the cult classic UHF.

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5.No medium killed the Parody Star

He’s been successful through LPs, Cassettes, CDs, MP3s, and back to LPs. Throw in a strong Youtube & Twitter presence, not many people have a resume like that.

6.Everyone’s a parody artist…

…yet nobody comes close to his level of ongoing success.

7.He doesn’t seem to miss.

Has he released a dud?

Perhaps the only reason none of his individual albums are deemed essential is that he’s too consistent. If he doesn’t miss, no one album is relatively stronger than its predecessor.

Sort of like The Incredibles’ line, “when everyone’s super (maniacal laugh), no one will be.”  If all of Al’s records are super, his individual recordings aren’t recognized as significant stand-alones.

In this way, he shares a curse with the greatest band of them all, The Smiths (2 peas in a pod?). There isn’t a blemish on their discography either but rarely do their individual records top best of lists; the trouble lies in choosing just one.

However, The Smiths only lasted 5 years.

Weird Al is now into his  5th DECADE (70s,80s,90s,00s,10s).

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One title I’ve never heard bestowed upon Al is “spokesperson of a generation.”

Not that he’d be undeserving; it’s just he’s spoken For and To multiple generations.

His genre of choice is supposed to be a novelty; frivolous, throw-away fun.

That his contributions to music have been anything but throw-away makes him the only possible choice for this ‘Most Durable Artist of All Time’ honour.

Congrats Al, here’s to another 5 decades!

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Photo challenge answers, from earliest to most recent:
B (1985), D (1988), F(1992), E(1999), A(2003), C(2011)

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21 Comments
  1. I hereby endorse and second the above statements.

    • Thanks James!

      • Earlier today, retired wrestler Superfly Jimmy Snuka was arrested on murder charges based on a domestic issue from 1984 or thereabouts. I tell a friend of mine, who says “All my childhood heroes are either dead, murderers, or racists.” This is not an uncommon sentiment among people who grew up on 80s wrestling. I replied “You’re right and I am so worried about Weird Al right now.” Then Aaron sent me an email entitled “Weird Al” and I thought, “you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.” So this post wound up being a nice surprise! Certainly better than the alternatives.

      • I saw that. But take solace in the fact that Ricky the Dragon Steamboat is still awesome and always will be.

      • I know what you mean about the stream of bad news – glad this could be a bit of good news!

      • Ricky the Dragon was always my favourite.

  2. Nice post, Geoff. I can listen to bits here and there, but I’ve never signed up to “Weird Al”. I certainly appreciate what he does and how well he does it, though. You can’t fail to tip your hat to that.

    • Funny you say signed up J, as at one point in my youth, I signed up to receive weird al newsletters!

      • I can imagine they were hugely entertaining!

  3. 8. People don’t realize how smart he is. His work with words is quite delicious.

    Well done Geoff! I have a Weird Al story to post. But I need my sister to take pictures of his underwear for me, so I can use them in the article. I’ll just leave it at that, with all your questions and comments!

  4. “7.He doesn’t seem to miss. Has he released a dud?”

    I might argue (from personal preference), that the Star Wars one set to American Pie (The Saga Begins) was pretty, er, Forced. I didn’t like it all that much.

  5. Great post. Al certainly is one of a kind – for which we should probably be grateful. I don’t know how many polka medleys we need…

    • Yes – I’d call it a niche that he’s the only one I need to hear! I feel that way with a few genres, Al’s definitely got the polka parody covered for me!

  6. Not sure he travels outside North America too well (or maybe I’m just more 70s than 80s!) but I enjoyed reading your appreciation of WAY very much, Geoff.

  7. Hahahaha well researched and written Geoff! I have no idea what Ladanos sister is doing with Wierd Als Gitch? Man……..Hahahahaha……LADANO once again the trouble maker comes out in him!

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