WHY AL?

"A man who for the past two decades made us laugh (often in spite of ourselves) at an otherwise overly self-serious music industry."
--E.C. Gladstone,
Rhino Entertainment

Weird Al is rock music's foremost satirist. He has sold more comedy records than any other artist in history and his name has become synonymous with comedic rock. No performer, no hit song, no cliche, no fad, and no musical style has escaped his grasp. And yet, he's relatively harmless, never stooping to unwarranted maliciousness in his barbs. He still treats those on the receiving end of his humor with respect and admiration, something that's found less and less in both the field of comedy and the music world.

Even though parodying popular songs was hardly a new concept in 1979, as such comedy pioneers as Spike Jones and Stan Freberg were doing just that decades before, Al was the first comedy artist to concentrate solely on targeting rock and roll and also make a successful career out of it. In the days since his first single, he has lasted longer than the majority of artists he's parodied, while his new releases sell as well if not better than many of the contemporary "straight" albums they're up against.

"He's actually rapping pretty good on it, it's crazy....It's really an honor when he does that....Weird Al is not gonna do a parody of your song if you're not doing it big. You gotta be a big dog....He's spittin' just like Krayzie Bone on the second verse. It's actually very funny if you listen to what he's saying. The way Krayzie is harmonizing, he does the same thing. It surprised me. I didn't know he could rap like that."
--Chamillionaire
on Al's parody "White & Nerdy"
Some of the biggest recording artists of the last three decades have given Al their blessing to mock their work, from Queen to Michael Jackson to Madonna to U2 to R.E.M. to Nirvana to Red Hot Chili Peppers to Aerosmith to Barenaked Ladies to Puff Daddy to Eminem to Billy Joel to the Backstreet Boys to Green Day to James Blunt to R. Kelly to Chamillionaire to even Led Zeppelin...and many, many more! Kurt Cobain once said that he didn't feel that Nirvana had "made it" until they had their own Weird Al parody. An Al parody has become a badge of honor for artists, an indication of their popularity, impact, and longevity.

And it's not so much that Al simply rewrites new lyrics to popular songs. He has also crafted as many original works in almost every category of the genre. When Al wrote the original song "Dare To Be Stupid," he styled it after many of Devo's hits. Devo's own Mark Mothersbaugh later essentially said that Al wrote a better Devo song than Devo ever could! Combined, Al has set his sights on new wave, punk rock, blues, Motown, synth pop, reggae, crooners, ragtime, soul, Latin rock, easy listening, funk, the British Invasion, grunge, surf music, rap, boy bands, salsa rock, hard rock, doo-wop, zydeco, techno rock, ska, swing, metal, r&b, and even country! Al has taken every genre of rock and popular music and parodied it, becoming the music world's Mad Magazine or Saturday Night Live. As rock music constantly redefines itself, Al is always there to goose it from behind, becoming essentially a performing rock historian. Despite his "schtick," Al is a musical chameleon and can adapt his humor to any style, quite a rarity in an industry where one-trick ponies with defined, trademarked images often reign supreme.

Al is also a pioneer in the field of music videos, being one of the first artists who were able to successfully translate their own personal style into the medium. At a time in which early videos were either too generic or too "out there," Al's first clips were able to bring the viewer right into his world, however demented it may be. Al showed how easily adaptable an artist can be to the format, while also proving that his talent wasn't limited to just finding a pun that rhymes with someone else's lyrics. And he has certainly been honored for his work in music videos, picking up an American Video Award for Best Male Performance for "Eat It," winning a Grammy for Best Concept Video for "Fat," and seeing "Smells Like Nirvana" ranked at #68 among the top one hundred videos of all time by none other than Rolling Stone.

It is his success with music videos that has made Al popular with all ages, and because of this Al has been a great conduit who has bridged generations with different varieties of music. A middle-aged adult might not have heard of Nirvana if not for Al's "Smells Like Nirvana." A child probably wouldn't have known Don McLean without Al's Star Wars-themed "The Saga Begins." And no doubt a modern teen's first glimpse of the work of Frank Zappa was through Al's Zappa-inspired "Genius In France." Al is able to make all forms of rock and roll accessible to everyone, which is an incredible feat if one considers that a given album could singularly allude to such polar opposites as Eminem and Billy Joel. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that many children's first exposure to mainstream rock and roll is through Weird Al.

"Weird Al's a funny guy and I think sometimes he does the song better than the original."
--Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong
on Al's parody "Canadian Idiot"
And through it all, Al has earned the respect and admiration of those he's parodied, partly because Al makes sure to seek permission from the artists before he pokes fun at them. Michael Jackson offered Al a newly built subway set to shoot the "Fat" video. Doug Fieger talked Capitol Records into signing Al after he heard Al's Knack parody "My Bologna." Chamillionaire not only publicly praised Al's "Ridin'" parody "White & Nerdy," but he also offered it on his own MySpace page. Nelly offered wardrobe for Al and his band for live performances of the "Hot In Herre" parody "Trash Day." Greg Kihn appeared in Al's "I Lost On Jeopardy" video. Frank Zappa's son Dweezil played guitar on "Genius In France." Members of Reel Big Fish provided horns for Al's ska-styled "Your Horoscope For Today." And in perhaps the ultimate example of returned flattery, Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler insisted on playing lead guitar on Al's "Money For Nothing" parody. Al has been fully accepted by the rock community.

Even if only subconsciously, Al's influence on the music scene is becoming more and more evident. Would the accordion appear in as many alternative songs if not for Al? Would lighter, sillier songs such as Barenaked Ladies' "If I Had $1,000,000" or Bowling for Soup's "1985" become popular if Al hadn't been around in the decades before? Would Eminem have been inspired to parody other artists in his music videos unless Al had already made a name for himself doing just that? Minor contributions to the genre when compared to the Lennon/McCartney oeuvre, sure, but Al's work has helped guarantee that humor will always have a place in mainstream music. And who knows how much Al's music and videos will inspire the next generation of rock stars.

And to think, all this simply by being rock and roll's jester. Is he on par with the Beatles or the Stones or Hendrix or the Doors or Brian Wilson or Elvis? Of course not (hey, who is?), but his place in rock and roll shouldn't be ignored. To do so would be nothing short of snobbery. "Fame" isn't limited to just the superficially serious.

Weird Al is most definitely worthy of Rock Hall induction.

But don't just take our word for it. Click here to check out a near-complete list of Al's various honors and accolades over the years!


Go back to the main Rock Hall page!