Archive for the Weird Al Yankovic Category

Happy Birthday Dwight Yoakam & Weird Al

Posted in Dwight Yoakam, Weird Al Yankovic on October 23, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Sometimes you just have to bust out a birthday post. Today we honor two of my favorites… Dwight Yoakam and Weird Al Yankovic.

Dwight Yoakam was born in Pikeville, Kentucky in 1956. And although he was raised mostly in Ohio, I will still gladly claim him as a fellow Eastern Kentuckian.

At his finest, Dwight was one of the few commercial acts who could actually keep the Country in Country Music. Early in his career, Dwight was shunned musically when he first moved to Nashville in the late 70s. His traditionalist take didn’t fit in with a city that was, at the time, dominated by the urban cowboy movement of pop-flavored country. It wasn’t until Dwight moved to Los Angeles with producer Pete Anderson that he began to find a true audience for his work. That seems especially odd until you realize that LA is just about one hundred miles south of Bakersfield, CA, birthplace of The Bakersfield Sound pioneered by artists such as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.

Yoakam had a healthy respect for those artists (especially Owens) and honored his heroes by railing against Nashville with his own honky tonkin’ traditionalist sound in much the same way Haggard and the Buckaroo did in the 50’s and 60’s. Yoakam’s debut album, 1986’s Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc,. went platinum, topped the Country Album Chart, and spawned two Top 5 Country singles. He would later score a #1 hit with “Streets of Bakersfield”… a duet with is friend and idol Buck Owens.

Here are three songs from Dwight Yoakam. The first is a duet with Maria McKee from his debut album that reminds me of my hometown on the banks of the Big Sandy River. The second is the duet with Buck Owens. Third is the title track from Yoakam’s 2005 effort Blame the Vain. That album was Yoakam’s first without the guiding hand of producer and guitarist Pete Anderson and proved that he could still deliver some two decades after his debut.

Dwight Yoakam: Bury Me (Buy Album)
Dwight Yoakam: Streets of Bakersfield (Buy Album)
Dwight Yoakam: Blame the Vain (Buy Album)

Of course, it’s only natural to pair Dwight Yoakam with today’s other birthday artist, Weird Al Yankovic. I devoured Al’s music as a child in the 80’s, and… even though I’m now 30… I’m not ashamed to say I haven’t outgrown his unique brand of musical humor.

Multiple Grammy winner Alfred Matthew Yankovic was born in Lynwood, California in 1959 and learned to play the accordion at a young age. As a teen, Al began writing comedy songs and eventually caught the ear of syndicated novelty radio host Dr. Demento. Al remained a staple of Demento play lists during his high school years, but his big break came in 1979 while he worked as a student dj at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Playing his accordion in the radio station bathroom, Al recorded a parody of The Knack’s hit song “My Sharona” entitled “My Bologna.” The song became a hit with Demento fans and… oddly enough… Knack lead singer Doug Fieger. Fieger took the song to Capitol Records and suggested they release it as a single. Weird Al was born.

Al is best known for his parodies of popular songs. Over the years, he’s spoofed many of the giants of pop music including Michael Jackson, Madonna, Nirvana, Queen, Don McClean, Puff Daddy, and Michael Jackson. In 2006, Al scored a Top 10 hit with “White & Nerdy,” a parody of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’ Dirty.” Many artists consider having one of their songs parodied by Al as a great honor. Dave Grohl of Nirvana said he knew the band had “made it” when Al parodied their hit “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Having Al re-work one of your songs is a sign that you have achieved cultural significance.

While Al is best known for his parodies, roughly half of his output is original material. Here are a few of Al’s original songs and on example of another of his staples… the polka medley. First is “Dare to be Stupid,” a song that describes Al’s philosophy perfectly and caused a minor sensation when it was included on the soundtrack for the animated hit, The Transformers: The Movie, in 1986. In keeping with the Americana feel of this blog, I’m also including a little country ditty from 1986’s Polka Party called “Good Enough for Now.” And… just for fun… how about a polka medley of Rolling Stones songs? Feel free to sing along.

Weird Al Yankovic: Dare to Be Stupid (Buy Album)
Weird Al Yankovic: Good Enough for Now (Buy Album)
Weird Al Yankovic: The Hot Rocks Polka (Buy Album)

Bonus Track: As a tribute to both Dwight Yoakam and Weird Al, here is a track from Al’s self-titled debut album from 1983.

Weird Al Yankovic: Happy Birthday (Buy Album)