A few months ago, I wrote about my trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. I stated that while I love the Hall of Fame, I did have the occasional issue with its selection process. I know it’s a tough choice every year and you also have to weigh the various issues surrounding each candidate, but I thought I would take this week’s column to highlight someone the HoF has snubbed for a number of years that I think deserves a spot.
Now there are probably a few music fans out their reading this that are scoffing at the very idea that Weird Al should be inducted into the HoF but I ask that you give me a few moments to fully explain my position and put to rest a few of the arguments that are always leveled at Weird Al when the suggestion comes up.
Weird Al has been eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame since 2004 but has yet to be even nominated. According to the regulations/rules set out by the HoF in the performer category, the performer is voted in based on criteria that includes the influence and significance of the performer’s contribution to rock and roll’s continuation and development. While I can’t confirm it, I imagine there’s also some weight given to musicianship, songwriting abilities and overall performance.
Weird Al has all of this in spades.
In terms of significance, Weird Al has become a benchmark for many performers over the years. You knew you made it when Weird Al parodied one of your songs. This was true for Nirvana (who were inducted into the HoF in 2014) as well as Lady Gaga, Chamillionaire and countless others. That must say something about the impact if an artist feels they have achieved something by Weird Al parodying their music.
One of the other knocks against Weird Al is his songwriting. “How talented can he be if he is just making up new lyrics to other people’s songs?”. There are two points I would like you to consider. Point one: writing lyrics is hard. If everyone could do it, they probably would. The fact that Al manages to make a new song out of someone else’s is pretty amazing when you break it down into it’s parts. Weird Al has to not only come up with a new set of lyrics, they have to make sense, be in the same tempo and close in key in order to have the song sound like the original while being a new track. And he has to be funny which is also difficult. Weird Al is an anomaly in the fact that he’s often written off as a novelty act every time he releases a new single despite the fact that he has been written off as a novelty with 14 albums under his belt. There are musicians that would kill for half a career of that length!
The second point I’d like to make in regards to Weird Al’s songwriting is the fact that he does original material that is quite exceptional. It’s a shame that it often doesn’t get the press his parodies do because a lot of it’s very good. In his original material, Weird Al has also managed to make songs that mimic the style of a song or band but are completely new songs. I remember my Dad swearing up and down that “Trigger Happy” from Off the Deep End was a Beach Boys song parody. “Dare to Be Stupid” sounds like a DEVO song but is also an original tune. Weird Al had gotten the feel of DEVO’s music so dead on that Mark Mothersbaugh said that Weird Al had made the perfect DEVO song. He stated in an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music:
“I was in shock. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. He sort of re-sculpted that song into something else and… I hate him for it, basically.”
And Mothersbaugh should know… he’s a founding member of DEVO.
The final argument that is usually made against Weird Al is that he’s not really a rock artist. This argument makes no sense. While he is not a traditional rock artist per say, isn’t that kind of the point? Look at the other “non-rock” artists that the HoF has inducted over the years: ABBA, Madonna, Johnny Cash, RUN DMC. None of those artists are rock musicians but they were all inducted. The reason that is usually given is that they embody the spirit of rock and roll. They are trendsetters, outsiders who made their mark. I think I’ve proven Weird Al has done that.
Now the final argument I would make is Al’s live performance. Weird Al puts on a live show that would rival any touring rock band. He has costume changes, set pieces, etc but at the heart of it lies a really good rock band. Much like Weird Al’s songwriting ability, this is a band that can not only play note for note renditions or popular songs but can also play amazingly well on original compositions and can do it while these costume changes and whatnot are going on.
Now, unfortunately, it looks like it’s too late to get Weird Al in for the next induction ceremony but I thought I would post this now in the hopes we can change some minds and get the man what he deserves the following year.
Weird Al Yankovic for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!