Born as Alfred Matthew Yankovic, Weird Al Yankovic has made a name for himself in a way no other artist has. He satirizes famous pop songs, and does quite a good job of it. He's earned two Grammys, eight Grammy nominations, and over 20 gold and platinum certifications since he began his parody career more than 20 years ago. Weird Al started out as a humble squeezebox player. There's no better instrument than an accordion to get a crowd laughing, especially when paired with ludicrous lyrics.
His career began to take shape in 1979. While DJing for his college radio station, he decided to include some original music in his show. He played a parody of the Knack's hit 'My Sharona', which he recorded in the public bathroom across the hall from the station. The spoof, titled 'My Bologna', launched a career no one would have expected.
It was later featured on the 1993 compilation, The Food Album, a collection of Weird Al's parodies involving food. Weird Al's song spoofs even got substantial play on radio shows like the Dr. Demento Show. In a strange twist of fate, the man who helped Weird Al find his way to a major label was the man Al first parodied. The Knack's singer Doug Fieger heard the parody on the radio, thought it was hilarious, and convinced the Capitol Records label to sign Weird Al to a six-month recording contract. The contract lapsed and Capitol did not re-sign Weird Al, but the jokes were far from gone.
Though the music business seemed to have given up on Weird Al, he didn't give up on his dream of making it big. With band mates Jon 'Bermuda' Schwartz, Jim West, and Steve Jay, he went on to be rejected by almost every major record label in the US. In the end it was the independent Scotti Bros. Records that gave Weird Al a chance. They were glad they did.
Weird Al Yankovic released his first self-titled album in 1982 featuring such comic greats as 'Another one Rides the Bus' (a parody of Queen's 'Another One Bites the Dust), 'Ricky' (mocking Toni Basil's 'Mickey'), and 'I Love Rocky Road' (spoof of Joan Jett's 'I Love Rock N' Roll). The album gained an underground following for Weird Al, but he was not yet the superstar of his dreams.
In 1984, Weird Al hit the big time. He released In 3-D which soon appeared in tape decks across the country. The single that made it all possible was 'Eat It', a spoof of Michael Jackson's 'Beat It'. It was accompanied by a video that parodied the original video. MTV picked up on the hype and played the video on a regular rotation, exposing the teenage masses to Weird Al's lyrical comedy.
Weird Al appeared regularly on MTV after that, doing various VJ gigs and plugging his other video parodies. The 1985 release of Dare To Be Stupid also featured another hit single: 'Like a Surgeon', an uproarious joke of Madonna's 'Like a Virgin'. More records featuring Weird Al's antics hit the shelves in 1986 and 1988. Polka Party and Even Worse were greeted with moderate success, but nothing groundbreaking. Al took a few years off, but came back with a vengeance with his smash hit 'Smells Like Nirvana', after Nirvana's own 'Smells Like Teen Spirit'. The single was featured on Off the Deep End, the first of three albums released in the early 90s. Alapalooza and Bad Hair Day were greeted by fans of comedy across the country.
Throughout his career, his live shows have been evolving with the times. What used to be accordion-accompanied solos have become multi-media mad houses that dazzle packed audiences. Artists that he has chosen to spoof have been known to buy a ticket and jostle in with the crowd to hear their own songs parodied by the master of satire. The success of Weird Al's career was a surprise to everyone but him.