How 15 Famous Musicians Responded to Weird Al's Parodies
No one wants to earn the wrath of Prince, lest he rain down purple vengeance upon you, so Weird Al Yankovic is steadfast about getting permission from the artists he parodies, even though he could legally tell them to suck rocks. That means most of them love his jabs at them -- sometimes a little too much -- but sometimes, wires (or shall we say dreads) get crossed.
Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, Prince always turned down Yankovic’s pitches, including a parody of “Purple Rain” called “Yellow Snow” and one of “Let’s Go Crazy” about the Beverly Hillbillies. Until Prince became a casualty of 2016, Yankovic “approached him every few years see if he's lightened up.”
Chamillionaire loved “White and Nerdy” so much that he posted the video to his own MySpace, which was like putting something up on the walls of your home back then. “"He's actually rapping pretty good on it,” he gushed to MTV. “He's spittin' just like Krayzie Bone on the second verse.”
McCartney had no problem with Yankovic parodying “Live and Let Die,” but he’s famously the most vegetarian, so he didn’t want it to be called “Chicken Pot Pie.” Yankovic ended up scrapping the whole thing because “Tofu Pot Pie” just doesn’t have the same ring to it, and besides, “the chorus of my song ‘Bawk-bawk-bawk-bawk’ and tofu doesn’t make any noise.”
Determined to work the Beverly Hillbillies into something, Yankovic instead asked the Dire Straits to use their song “Money For Nothing.” Frontman Mark Knopfler, taking advantage of the opportunity to jam with a legend, granted permission only on the condition that he was allowed to play lead guitar on the track.
Presidents of the United States of America
When Yankovic played “Gump” for the Presidents of the United States of America, it was the first time he got to see a musician’s reaction to his work firsthand, and fortunately, they loved it. In fact, they often sing his words when they play “Lump” live.
Yankovic’s parodies of Michael Jackson are among his most popular, including with Jackson, who became such good friends with Yankovic that he invited him to appear in a music video. There was one song he couldn’t hang with, though: “Black or White,” which Jackson said was too important of a song and “actually wound up doing me a big favor,” according to Yankovic, “because, frankly, my wanting to do Michael Jackson a third time was a pure act of desperation.”
Instead, Yankovic had a stroke of luck after asking a friend and cast member of Saturday Night Live to put Nirvana on the phone if they were ever on the show -- and then she did. Kurt Cobain just had one question: “Is it going to be a song about food?” Yankovic assured him, “no, it’s going to be a song about how nobody can understand your lyrics,” and he replied, “Oh, sure, of course, that’s funny.” It was later revealed that Cobain had called Yankovic “America’s modern pop-rock genious” in his journals.
McLean liked Yankovic’s Star Wars parody of “American Pie,” but his kids liked it even more. He told Yankovic that they played it so much around the house that he sometimes couldn’t keep his own lyrics straight when he performed. He also mentioned that he’d denied Coolio permission to sample the song, which Yankovic thought was “great, another reason for him to hate me.” (We’ll get to that.)
It’s unclear exactly who denied Yankovic permission to release his parody of “Born This Way,” but Lady Gaga’s managers demanded a finished demo for her to hear before delivering a resounding “no” anyway. Since he’d already recorded it, he released it for free instead, and fans were so mad it wouldn’t be on his next album that Lady Gaga had to go on the record that her managers never even told her about it, and if they had, of course she’d have said yes. Either they threw themselves under the bus of their boss’s whims or someone got fired.
Nash wasn’t just pleased that Yankovic chose to parody Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, he actually asked him to do it. They ran into each other in the early 2010s, and Nash asked, “So when are you going to get around to doing a parody of ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes?'” Yankovic had, in fact, just recorded a parody of the song, so he got to play it for him right there.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea insisted he didn’t mind being made fun of by Yankovic, he was just unimpressed with the final product. "I didn't think it was very good. I enjoy Weird Al's things, but I found it unimaginative,” said the man who has recorded 127 songs about California.
Yankovic wanted to include “Buddy Holly” in one of his polka medleys, and Weezer had initially granted permission, then decided against it at the last minute. And we do mean “last minute” -- the CD booklets that included special thanks to Weezer had already been printed, confusing fans, and the song had to be “physically cut” out of the track.
Eminem allowed Yankovic to record a parody of “Lose Yourself” but asked him not to make a music video, fearing that it would “change kids' visual perception on what that image was.” Yes, the image of Eminem vomiting in a filthy public restroom.
You probably don’t even remember the name Daniel Powter -- he did that “Bad Day” song back in the 2000s -- but he decided he was too good for Yankovic when he was recording Straight Outta Lynwood. He later changed his mind, but there was no longer any room for him on the album. It was the ultimate musical neg.
The most intense reaction to one of Yankovic’s parodies came from Coolio, who said after Yankovic recorded “Amish Paradise” that he didn’t “appreciate him desecrating the song like that” and advising Yankovic to “stay away from” him, which is pretty scary, considering the original song is about shooting people. It turned out there had apparently been some miscommunication with Coolio’s management, but he later apologized, saying he was “being cocky” and the song is “actually funny as shit.” You know Yankovic still sometimes sees spiky shadows in the night, though.
Top image: Kyle Cassidy/Wikimedia Commons