Arguably the most versatile artist of his generation hasn’t even got a sniff of the Rock Hall. Why? Bunch of long haired, heroin addicts who think too highly of themselves don’t have a sense of humor. Over the course of his career, Weird Al Yankovic has released over a dozen albums, nearly all of which either went gold or platinum. He has been nominated for 14 Grammys, winning 3, across 4 different decades. And, of course, how many parodists can claim their song hit #1 on the pop charts? (Which “Eat It” did in Australia in 1984.) Yankovic’s aversion to conflict keeps his name out of gossip columns, which seems to actually hurt his cause as a rock star, but he is a rock star none the less. Still don’t believe me? Well this article will cement the Top 10 Reasons Weird Al Yankovic belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
10. Most Famous Alum of the Dr. Demento Show
All the way back in 1974, Barry Hansen donned a top hat and matching tuxedo and became the syndicated radio sensation Dr. Demento. Playing novelty music for the Westwood One Radio Network, the Dr. Demento Show was one of the top syndicated radio shows within a decade playing novelty hits from as far back as the 1930’s. Many of the songs weren’t played anywhere else on the radio dial, partly due to the genre and partly due to a low production value. A 16 year old Al Yankovic submitted his first tape to the show in 1976 and over the course of 150 more releases over nearly 40 years, Yankovic has outgrown the very medium which launched his career. Weird Al Yankovic is unequivocally the King of Novelty Music. How many artists are the kings of their own mountain?
Sadly, the Dr. Demento Show lost its steam at the turn of the millennium and Dr. Demento himself has been reduced to a Microbroadcaster. For those without access to the new version of the show, you can get your novelty fix streaming at Demented Radio.
9. Yankovic carried his record label
Even when Al was selling thousands of units, the record labels with whom he dealt with often went belly up after releasing his singles. In 1982 Al signed with Scotti Bros Records and quickly became one of their biggest selling artists as his first album eventually went Gold. Yankovic was loyal to the label, but in 1997 the label was sold to Volcano Entertainment. Volcano assimilated the Scotti Bros catalog, but terminated their relationships with all of the artists except for Al and Survivor. As opposed to such Rock Hall alum who were forced to start their own labels when their sales tailed off, like Frank Zappa, Al continued to move units when few artists are able to move units. As corporate mergers continued in the record business, Volcano was absorbed into BMG, which fell under the umbrella of Sony Music, which…does it even matter? Even when he writes songs to annoy people, like Albuquerque, they still are received warmly.
8. AL TV
Way, way, way back when MTV used to play videos, Weird Al would stop by the studio and take over for an hour or two and played “anything I want.” Al would always promote his newest single, but the rest of the show was dedicated to fake interviews, more obscure musical fare, and eating Hot Dog Twinkies. No ego, no agenda, no prima donna attitude, he would just show up play the craziest videos. (I first saw the song Institutionalized by Suicidal Tendencies on AL TV!) How does this fact translate into Rock Hall status? Simple, Yankovic understood the power of the medium. How many artists have great, memorable videos? Few artists can match Al’s breadth and depth of video output, but ultimately the best thing I ever saw on AL TV was this curious, no-budget blues song that revels in its own glorious filth.
7. Al loves novelty music
Al is the torch-bearer of novelty music today. Instead of touting his own greatness, which he could clearly do, he still champions others in his genre. You may counter my point and say “if Yankovic really is that great, put him in the Novelty Music Hall of Fame.” Okay, while you’re at it, go ahead take out rappers Public Enemy, put them in the Rap Hall of Fame. Take out Metallica, put them in the Metal Hall of Fame. Take out overrated songwriter Randy Neuman, don’t put him anywhere else. My point is that the Rock Hall encompasses a large spectrum of musical diversity, so there is a lot room for variations to the Rock mantra. Don’t forget, the 50’s and 60’s were loaded with novelty music with Rock and Roll roots. To prove his love for the genre, Yankovic himself came up with a list of underrated ditties. If he had thought of just one more song, he could have submitted his very own TopTenz list.
6. Christmas songs that are timeless like John Lennon’s and David Bowie’s
Other than Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer by Elmo and Patsy, there are no more timeless Christmas novelty songs than Weird Al’s Christmas at Ground Zero and the Night Santa went Crazy. As radio stations changed format 2 weeks before Thanksgiving and played the same dozen or so Christmas songs over and over until Christmas, there’s something to be said for the timelessness of a tune that isn’t overplayed and you are anxious to hear every single holiday. Assuming that you have a healthy sense of humor, that is.
5. Why not? Look at ABBA
For you snobs who claim Al doesn’t possess the same gravitas as great Rock bands like Led Zeppelin or the Beatles, remember the Rock Hall is the same place that enshrines such multiplatinum selling disco lightweights such as ABBA and Donna Summer. You can’t tell me that Al’s music is less important than disco. And on top of that, 30 years after his first release, Al’s hit White and Nerdy had over 80 million hits on YouTube. 30 years after ABBA’s first release, they all hated each other so much that they turned down 1 BILLION DOLLARS to reunite.
4. Al has covered Hall of Famers as varied as Nirvana, Michael Jackson, and Madonna
As great as Nirvana was, and they were great, their music was very genre-specific, basically defining grunge. Yankovic’s rock cover Smells Like Nirvana reached the top 40 on the charts, as did his pop cover of Michael Jackson’s Eat It, and as did his pop cover of Madonna’s Like a Surgeon. All 3 artists are in the Rock Hall and all 3 have very little in common artistically. Yankovic also showed his range by having minor hits covering other Rock Hall artists Tom Petty and James Brown.
3. Multiple Fan Driven Campaigns
You may think I’m a crackpot that doesn’t have his pulse on music. Fair enough. But I’m not alone in my admiration of the skills of Yankovic. There have been multiple fan driven campaigns to get Yankovic into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since he became eligible for the Hall in 2004. In 2009, Rolling Stone Magazine, once the Holy Grail of all things Rock, put the question to the readers: Who should be nominated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Al won the poll in a landslide outgaining such artists who would later be enshrined such as the Beastie Boys, Alice Cooper, and Rush.
2. Originals in the Spirit of Nine Inch Nails, Dylan, and Devo
Who says Al is unoriginal? Every album is split down the middle between parodies and originals. His originals are sometimes out of the ether like the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, but others, such as Dare to be Stupid, are in the spirit of other bands, like Devo. Switching from ballads, to new wave, to prog, to industrial, again it is the versatility of Al that shines through. Don’t forget, some of Rock Hall of Famer Frank Zappa’s most popular songs such as Valley Girl and Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow strayed from rock and jazz and were planted firmly in the novelty arena.
1. Funny for 25 straight years
How many artists are relevant for 25 years? Granted Another One Rides the Bus is a little dated, but I Lost on Jeopardy is still as funny as the day it first recorded. And who remembers the Greg Kihn original? With the exception of maybe the Red Hot Chili Peppers, what Rock and Roll Hall of Famers were on top of their game for a quarter of a century and were actually better at enshrinement time? Unafraid to take chances, Yankovic has never shied away from a challenge. On top of his impressive discography, he has written music for his movie UHF, which he co-wrote and co-starred, did music for his numerous guest spots, including Yo Gabba Gabba, 30 Rock, and Robot Chicken, and wrote the theme to the well done, but ill-fated, the Weird Al Show. There have been a few misses along the way, but at the end of the day Yankovic has achieved a very clear and concise resume that few artists, let alone a musician, could match. PUT HIM IN THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME!