9 Musicians Who Refused to Let "Weird Al" Yankovic Parody Their Songs

Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Hilarity For Charity
Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Hilarity For Charity

For the past 40 years, "Weird Al" Yankovic has been churning out hit songs by putting his own, spoofy twist on other chart-toppers to come up with tunes like “Eat It,” “Like a Surgeon,” “White & Nerdy,” and “Amish Paradise.” While the First Amendment and fair use copyright laws mean that Yankovic doesn’t have to get permission from the original recording artists to record a parody song, out of courtesy and respect he always does. Which means that he has gotten the occasional “no,” as these nine artists prove.

1. PAUL MCCARTNEY

Weird Al wanted to parody the Wings song “Live and Let Die,” but Paul McCartney turned him down. “I wanted to do ‘Chicken Pot Pie,’ and Paul was a good sport,” Yankovic explained. “He said, ‘I would love for you to do this, but could you not make it about chicken because I’m a vegetarian. I don’t want to condone the eating of animal flesh.’” But “It wouldn’t work with ‘Tofu Pot Pie.’"

Weird Al still plays bits and pieces of the parody song during his live performances, but he has yet to get permission from McCartney to record it.

2. EMINEM

In 2003, Weird Al intended "Couch Potato" to be the first single off his then-new album, “Poodle Hat.” The song was a parody of Eminem’s Academy Award-winning song “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile. While Eminem gave Weird Al permission to parody the song, the rapper denied him permission to use it as a single and be the center of a music video.

“Eminem was fine with me having the parody on my album but said he was afraid that a Weird Al video might detract from his legacy, that it would somehow make people take him less seriously as an important hip-hop artist,” Yankovic said in an interview.

In response, Interscope Records spokesman Dennis Dennehy said on Eminem’s behalf, “It’s an important personal piece of music for him, a piece of art. He doesn’t mind him doing the song, but he didn’t want to change kids’ visual perception on what that image was. He wanted to make sure the image would remain intact.”

3. PRINCE

Over the many decades of Weird Al’s career, Prince has been the one recording artist who has never let him parody one of his songs. It’s not for lacking of trying. He’s tried to do spoofs of “Kiss” and “1999” since the 1980s without success. “The only person who’s consistently said no has been Prince. I haven’t approached him in 20 years,” Yankovic told Access Hollywood in 2014. “He just wasn’t into the parody.”

4. JIMMY PAGE

While he’s a big fan of Weird Al’s music, guitarist Jimmy Page declined Yankovic permission to turn Led Zeppelin songs into a polka medley. However, Page did allow Weird Al to do an interpolation of “Black Dog” in Yankovic’s “Trapped in the Drive-Thru,” which is a parody of R. Kelly’s “Trapped in the Closet.”

Yankovic told the Toronto Sun, “It’s actually quite a coup that I was able to get Led Zeppelin to let me and my band do that little bit of ‘Black Dog’ in ‘Trapped In The Drive-Thru. They’re famous for not letting people do anything with their music.”

5. COOLIO

Although Weird Al received permission from Interscope Records to parody “Gangsta’s Paradise,” rapper Coolio didn’t give Yankovic consent to write the parody “Amish Paradise.” After the Grammy Awards in 1995, Coolio spoke out against the parody, “[I] ain’t with that … I think that my song was too serious … I really … don’t appreciate him desecrating the song like that … his record company asked for my permission, and I said no. But they did it anyway.”

According to Yankovic, it was all a misunderstanding: “Two separate people from my label told me that they had personally talked to Coolio … and that he told them that he was okay with the whole parody idea … Halfway into production, my record label told me that Coolio’s management had a problem with the parody, even though Coolio personally was okay with it. My label told me … they would iron things out—so I proceeded with the recording and finished the album.”

Since parody falls under fair use, “Amish Paradise” was recorded and became a smash hit in 1996. Years later, Coolio apologized to Weird Al about the misunderstanding surrounding the spoof. “I’ve since apologized to him,” the rapper said. “That was a stupid thing for me to do. That was one of the dumbest things I did in my career.”

6. MICHAEL JACKSON

Although Michael Jackson gave Weird Al permission to spoof “Bad” and “Beat It” into the parody songs “Fat” and “Eat It,” respectively, the King of Pop denied Yankovic consent to parody his 1991 song “Black or White.” “Michael wasn’t quite so into it, because he thought ‘Black or White’ was more of a message song, and he didn’t feel as comfortable with a parody of that one, which I completely understood,” Yankovic wrote in Rolling Stone. Though he never recorded the spoof “Snack All Night,” he does perform it live from time to time.

Fun Fact: Michael Jackson shares a co-writing credit with Yankovic on “Eat It.”

7. WEEZER

In 1996, Weird Al included a number of popular alternative rock songs into one polka medley called “The Alternative Polka.” He originally included a snippet of Weezer’s “Buddy Holly,” but then the band reconsidered. “‘Buddy Holly’ by Weezer was originally in ‘The Alternative Polka,’” says Yankovic on his website. “In fact, it was completely recorded, and we were about to do the final mix when we got a call from Weezer’s management—apparently the song’s writer, Rivers Cuomo, decided for whatever reason that he didn’t want his song in my medley after all, so at the very last minute (after the ‘special thanks’ had already been printed on the CD and cassette booklets) we had to physically cut the song out of the medley. I’m still kind of bummed about it—it sounded really cool.”

Yankovic later released an unmixed and unmastered version of the 23-second section online for free.

8. DANIEL POWTER

In 2006, Weird Al wanted to spoof Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” with the parody “You Had a Bad Date,” but the recording artist denied Yankovic permission to record it. At least at first. “And then literally the day before we went into the studio to record ‘White & Nerdy,’ we got a call saying he changed his mind and he wanted to do it after all,” Yankovic told the Toronto Sun. “And I had to inform him that the train had left the station.”

9. ATLANTIC RECORDS

After receiving James Blunt’s blessing to parody his hit song “You’re Beautiful,” Weird Al recorded and planned to release the spoof “You’re Pitiful” as the first single from his “Straight Outta Lynwood” album in 2006. However, Blunt’s record label Atlantic Records stepped in and denied Yankovic any use of the parody because they felt it might hurt James Blunt’s brand and public image. Weird Al later released “White & Nerdy,” a spoof of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin,’” as the first single instead and then released “You’re Pitiful” online for free.

“I have a long-standing history of respecting artists’ wishes,” Yankovic wrote to NPR. “So if James Blunt himself were objecting, I wouldn’t even offer my parody for free on my website. But since it’s a bunch of suits—who are actually going against their own artist’s wishes—I have absolutely no problem with it.”

5 Wild Facts About Mall Madness

Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The mall, home of fashion brands, bookstores, and anchor locations like Sears, was a must-visit location for Americans in the 1980s and 1990s—and especially for teenagers. Teens also played Mall Madness, a board game from Milton Bradley introduced in 1988 that tried to capture the excitement of soft pretzels and high-interest credit card shopping in one convenient tabletop game. Navigating a two-story shopping mall, the player who successfully spends all of their disposable income to acquire six items from the shopping list and return to the parking lot wins.

If you’re nostalgic for this simulated spending spree, you're in luck: Hasbro will be bringing Mall Madness back in fall 2020. Until then, check out some facts about the game’s origins.

1. Mall Madness was the subject of a little controversy.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Milton Bradley put a focus on the tween demographic. Their Dream Phone tasked young players with finding the boy of their dreams; Mall Madness, which began as an analog game but quickly added an electronic voice component, served to portray tweens as frenzied shoppers. As a result, the game drew some criticism upon release for its objective—to spend as much money as possible—and for ostensibly portraying the tweens playing as “bargain-crazy, credit-happy fashion plates,” according to Adweek. Milton Bradley public relations manager Mark Morris argued that the game taught players “how to judiciously spend their money.”

2. The original Mall Madness may not be the same one you remember.

The electronic version of Mall Madness remains the most well-known version of the game, but Milton Bradley introduced a miniature version in 1988 that was portable and took the form of an audio cassette. With the game board folded in the case, it looks like a music tape. Opened, the tri-fold board resembles the original without the three-dimensional plastic mall pieces. It was one of six games the company promoted in the cassette packaging that year.

3. Mall Madness was not the only shopping game on the market.

At the same time Mall Madness was gaining in popularity, consumers could choose from two other shopping-themed board games: Let’s Go Shopping from the Pressman Toy Corporation and Meet Me At the Mall from Tyco. Let’s Go Shopping tasks girls with completing a fashion outfit, while Meet Me At the Mall rewards the player who amasses the most items before the mall closes.

4. There was a Hannah Montana version of Mall Madness.

In the midst of Hannah Montana madness in 2008, Hasbro—which acquired Milton Bradley—released a Miley Cyrus-themed version of the game. Players control fictional Disney Channel singing sensation Hannah Montana as she shops for items. There was also A Littlest Pet Shop version of the game, with the tokens reimagined as animals.

5. Mall Madness is a collector’s item.

Because, for the moment, Hasbro no longer produces Mall Madness, a jolt of nostalgia will cost you a few dollars. The game, which originally sold for $30, can fetch $70 or more on eBay and other secondhand sites.

10 'Nuts' That Aren't Actually Nuts

None of these "nuts" are truly nuts.
None of these "nuts" are truly nuts.
margouillatphotos/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Who doesn’t love a pedantic houseguest? Next time you’re at a dinner party and someone breaks out the mixed nuts, seize the moment and let everyone know that a lot of the tasty treats we call nuts don’t actually merit the title. Botanists define a “nut” as a dry, one-seeded fruit encased in a hardened ovary wall (called a pericarp). Genuine nuts are fused to their shells and won’t naturally break open upon reaching maturity. Hazelnuts fit the criteria. So do chestnuts. But these ever-popular snack foods sure don’t.

1. Peanuts

The star ingredient of America's favorite nut butter isn't actually a nut. Instead, peanuts are considered legumes, along with soybeans, lentils, and chickpeas. Unlike nuts, most legumes come in self-opening pods—which may or may not grow underground, depending on the species. 

2. Almonds

A group of almonds in wood bowl atop a rustic table
These almonds formed inside a fleshy fruit.
onairjiw/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Almonds are seeds found within the fleshy, peach-like fruits of the Asian Prunus dulcis tree. They’ve earned a spot on our list because actual nuts don’t come wrapped up in softened fruit matter. So how do botanists classify almonds? As drupe seeds. Briefly stated, a drupe is a soft fruit with a hard inner shell. (Think peach pits.)

3. Cashews

Like almonds, cashews are drupe seeds pulled from soft fruit packages. The trail mix staples poke out of red, yellow, or green “cashew apples” that grow on South American trees. Cashew seeds are naturally protected by a toxin-coated outer shell that's roasted to neutralize the acid. In spite of this defense mechanism, the yummy snacks were soon embraced by Portuguese explorers and distributed across the globe.

4. Walnuts

A squirrel eating walnuts in a park
The walnuts this squirrel is noshing on are drupes, not nuts.
Serhii Ivashchuk/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Hey look, it’s another member of the drupe clan! Walnuts inhabit green fruit on temperate trees in the genus Juglans. Most of the seeds that end up on American dining room tables come from the English walnut tree, Juglans regia [PDF]. Even if you don’t eat the drupes, you can probably find a use for them: Walnut shells have been incorporated into everything from cosmetic products to kitty litter.

5. Pine nuts

About 20 pine tree species—including the Italian stone pine—produce big seeds that get harvested en masse. Those seeds are removed from cones in a meticulous process, which accounts for their high selling prices.

5. Brazil Nuts

You’ll encounter Brazil nuts all over the Amazon rainforest, in such countries as Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, and (of course) Brazil. They come from a hardened 4-to-6-pound pod containing up to two dozen seeds that might become trees someday. The pods are so hefty, getting bonked on the head by a falling one is enough to stun or even kill you.  Surprisingly, Brazil Nuts can also be fairly radioactive thanks to the trees' roots, which grow deep within radium-rich soil.

7. Macadamia Nuts

Rows of trees at an Australian Macadamia orchard
An Australian macadamia orchard filled with the country's native drupe.
oxime/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Gympie, Queensland, has an odd claim to fame: Approximately 70 percent of all the macadamia nuts on Earth are descended from trees grown in the Australian town. Macadamias are an ecological staple in Queensland and New South Wales. But—stop us if this sounds familiar—their so-called “nuts” are drupes.

8. Pistachios

Not only are pistachios drupes, but they’ve got shells that automatically open with a literal popping noise once the contents reach a certain size. When all’s said and done, though, at least pistachios are Frank Drebin-approved.

9. Pecans

The Algonquian term for “nut that requires a stone to crack” gave us the English word pecan. Wild pecans can be gathered in Mexico and the United States—they’re true North American treasures. Name origin aside, they can’t accurately be called nuts. Botanists usually refer to them as drupes, but because of their tough shells, the label “drupaceous nuts” might be more appropriate. Either way, pecans aren’t true nuts. They make for great pies, though.

10. Coconuts

A monkey sticks out its tongue while eating a coconut
This cheeky monkey seems to be enjoying its delicious drupe.
Volga2012/iStock via Getty Images Plus

A drupe of unusual size, the coconut is a fibrous juggernaut that bears a single seed. The whitish fleshy interior can be immersed in hot water and then rung out through a cloth to produce coconut milk. Meanwhile, the outer shells are responsible for some of the most delightfully bizarre Guinness World Records categories, such as “most green coconuts smashed with the head in one minute.” (You can see other unusual Guinness World Record categories here.)

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