[Note: Updated To Reflect Information About “Mandatory Fun.” 7/27/2014]
There are only a few comedy musicians who have managed to make a successful career in music. While there are a great many funny men (and the occasional funny woman) who have had successful comedy albums of spoken bits, and even comedians that have had the occasional hit song (like Jeff Foxworthy, who had a couple of moderately successful singles, at least), no musical comedian has had the successful career of “Weird Al” Yankovic. There are perhaps three people involved in musical comedy whose work is worthy of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame consideration at the present time: Dr. Demento, as a producer/non-musician, Alan Sherman, and Weird Al (along with his band). Among musical genres, comedy is definitely an aspect of music that has not received sufficient attention and critical praise, and “Weird Al” stands so far above his peers that when someone wants a lot of people to download a pretty terrible parody song, all they have to do is put his name on it, before people realize that the song is clearly an inferior product. When people try to spread their work by using the name of another, that speaks to the incredible influence that musician has. Since the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame claims to judge musicians by influence, that would appear to be a big sign of influence to me at least.
“Weird Al” Yankovic’s Contribution
“Weird Al” has contributed to the history of music in a few ways, which are very familiar to his fans (of which I am one) but are apparently not familiar to the gatekeepers of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. First, as has already been mentioned, “Weird Al” is the gold standard for musical parodies, and has been for decades, in a career that goes back more than thirty years and remains fresh and vital. The reputation of “Weird Al” and the demand for his parodies is so great that many lesser talents seek to borrow his reputation to increase their own popularity. Beyond that undoubted cultural influence, which has extended from music into movies (“UHF” as well as soundtrack work like his single “Spy Hard” for the movie of the same name) as well as television, he has a lengthy body of work that includes six platinum albums, as well as four additional albums that have gone gold. His 2014 album “Mandatory Fun” even hit #1 on the album charts. His success has not only been in the United States, but internationally in nations like the United Kingdom and Australia. He has had ten songs hit the top 100 chart, four hit the top 40, and one hit the top 10 , which is unparalleled mainstream success for a parody artist. His career has mathced or outlasted many of the artists he has parodied, including a range of artists as broad as Michael Jackson, Queen, Coolio, Chamillionaire, The Offspring, Nirvana, Madonna, Green Day, and Dire Straits , some of which are already in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (Michael Jackson, Madonna, Queen), will be there soon (Nirvana), or deserve to be there (like Dire Straits or perhaps Green Day, when their time comes). For undoubted cultural influence extending over a long period and even surpassing many of the targets of the parodies themselves, “Weird Al” has earned a spot in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Why “Weird Al” Yankovic Is A No-Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
“Weird Al” Yankovic has made polka relevant to modern music, something that would have seemed completely unbelieveable were the proof not in existence. He and his band are the undisputed masters of song and style parodies, and have maintained a strong performance in terms of musical quality as well as sales and chart success for more thirty years. Furthermore, “Weird Al” has served as a gatekeeper, as his parodies serve as evidence that a genre or an artist have reached such mainstream success that they are worthy of being parodied. In fact, many artists like Kurt Cobain and Chamillionaire have been flattered to receive the “Weird Al” treatment because they knew how it would validate their own artistic merit. Other artists, like Coolio, have been less pleased. The fact that “Weird Al” has brought musical parodies and polka to the mainstream, and done so with sustained brilliance and commercial success, and served as a cultural gatekeeper that has granted legitimacy and longevity to many artists, to the point where his own parodies often come to mind quicker than the original song (like one of my personal theme songs, “White And Nerdy”) means that “Weird Al” is completely worthy of induction into the Rock & Roll Of Fame.
Why Isn’t “Weird Al” Yankovic In The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
“Weird Al” Yankovic doesn’t take himself too seriously. Neither polka nor comedy pop have received a great deal of critical praise from those who consider themselves the gatekeepers of Rock & Roll history. His role in bringing nerdiness and geekiness to the musical mainstream (opening the door to Nerdcore artists as well as comedic bands like The Lonely Island to mainstream success as musical acts) is one deserving of recognition at the highest levels. His band has undoubted musical chops, as is indicated by their ability to morph styles and play everything from ska and polka to grunge and rap. The fact that they do so with a total lack of self-seriousness and a large amount of self-effacing humor, and surprising bittersweet sadness in dealing with relationships (“You Don’t Love Me Anymore,” for example) means that the musical talent of “Weird Al” and his band have often gone unreocgnized by self-appointed musical elites.
Verdict: The word of music would be immensely less enjoyable and a lot more dull were it not for the music of “Weird Al,” in songs like “Another One Rides The Bus,” “Like A Surgeon,” “Eat It,” “I Lost On Jeopardy,” “Dare To Be Stupid,” “Smells Like Nirvana,” “Jurassic Park,” “Amish Paradise,” “The Saga Begins,” “It’s All About The Pentiums,” “White & Nerdy,” “Whatever You Like,” or “Word Crimes” among many other songs. His body of work, even considered as parodies obviously inspired and influenced by others, is impressive at the highest order. His humility and genuineness is a refreshing antidote to artists (and critics) who take themselves way too seriously. As a successful act in polka, rap (!), and many other genres, “Weird Al” and his band deserve induction. Put them in already.