This archived article was written by: Sam Czarnecki
Singer, songwriter, record producer, author, parodist, etc. All of these titles refer to the man with the accordion himself, Alfred “Weird Al” Yankovic. One of the foremost faces of the MTV era, Yankovic has been composing, authoring, directing and making parodies since 1976. Thirty-nine years later, he’s still writing parodies (and directing another movie) as one of the world’s greatest comedy singers.
Yankovic was born in Downey, Calif. and raised in Lynwood. Yankovic quotes his father as often saying that “the key to success” is “doing for a living whatever makes you happy.” The day before his 6th birthday, Yankovic began accordion lessons at a local music school. His parents chose the accordion because they were convinced it would “revolutionize rock.” He continued lessons for three more years before learning on his own.
Early on, Yankovic’s role models included accordionists Frankie Yankovic and Myron Floren. As he grew older, he listened to music written by Allan Sherman, Shel Silverstein and other comedy songwriters, many of whom found a steady venue through the Dr. Demento Radio Show. Other sources of inspiration for Yankovic came from Mad Magazine, Monty Python, and the Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker parody movies.
Yankovic turned out to be extremely bright, starting kindergarten a year earlier than most children, as well as having the capacity to skip second grade as well. He was most active in Lynwood High’s debate team, drama department and a Volcano Worshipers club, “which did absolutely nothing. [They] started the club just to get an extra picture of ourselves in the yearbook.”
Yankovic went on to attend California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, where he would eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in architecture.
During his sophomore year, 1976, Yankovic sent a tape recording of his first song, “Belvedere Cruisin,’” to Dr. Demento, who then played it on his radio show. Skip ahead 39 years. Yankovic has been part of a band, written more songs, and starred in both a satirical documentary of himself as well as a stand-alone comedy written by himself.
Years after his initial appearance as, “the guy with the tape-recorder and the accordion,” Yankovic has produced hundreds of songs, appeared live over 1,000 times, and, in my opinion, succeeded in keeping the world’s ever-expanding library of music from becoming too stale.