I met my hero last year at a suburban Milwaukee bookstore. A friend had gone early for me to obtain my number, and she gave it to me when we arrived. We, being my three children and I, and our number
was seven. As in, seventh person in line. Come to find out that more than 500 people came that day to meet this man, and I was number seven.
That man was Weird Al Yankovic, my favorite singer since I was 8 years-old, and now, the favorite singer of my kids. This week, his new album was released, along with a new music video every day for eight days. He’s trending Twitter, You Tube, and Facebook right now, and rightfully so: this man is a genius. I hope this week’s exposure brings him gobs of new fans and rekindles the musical tastes of old ones.
My friends and family associate me with Weird Al. Any time he’s on a show, or they hear something about him, they let me know. As you can imagine, my own FB feed has blown up this week with all the Al sightings across the interwebs. This has been about the only week ever that it’s been cool to like Weird Al. I say that with great love and affection for the man. He’s a nerd’s nerd, and if he isn’t cool enough to sit with the popular kids, well, I think he’s okay with that.
My first encounter with Weird Al was when my parents bought me a walkman and a tape for a long car trip to North Carolina. The album was “Even Worse” and I saw it on Double Dare as one of the prizes. I sang along to every song for 32 hours. (That’s 16 hours there and back.) And then I got another tape. And another. And I played them continuously in my room. Before I ever discovered Weird Al, the only thing I played on my stereo was an old comedy record (yes, record, that’s how old I am) so becoming a Weird Al fan was probably the natural progression of things.
Being a Weird Al fan has never been my most popular attribute. I don’t hide it, but I don’t flaunt it unless conversation turns to that direction. What I’ve discovered over the years is that the most interesting and creative people I know are also closet Weird Al fans. And what’s more telling, nearly every person I ever worked with at a newspaper loves Weird Al. It’s like writers appreciate his lyrics and creativity. Duh.
What I’ve come to appreciate over the years though is just how true to himself he seems to be. He has one niche market, one thing he’s expected to do, and he does it so well. He’s not interested in rebranding himself or changing his image. He’s Weird Al. His songs are funny. I can put him on in the Mom-mobile and not have to turn down the volume for fear of my kids hearing naughty words.
You’ll never hear about a Weird Al sex scandal, or him trashing a hotel room. No way. He’s a quiet man, and for all I know about him, is very family-oriented. When the kids and I met him last year, Nate drew him a picture and gave it to him. Weird Al treated that picture like it was gold. He asked three times if Nate was sure he wanted to give it away. Friends who have met him or know people that have met him all say the same thing: he’s super nice and gracious, never turning away a fan or a conversation.
This is one of the things I now love about being a grown-up. I can see how my likes and choices in my childhood may not have been popular at the time, but definitely pointed me in the right direction. I never really had the “in” clothes, which in the end was fine because in the early 90s, there were a lot of skin-tight tops and dark lipstick…and that would have probably gotten me into some trouble with boys. I never was attracted to the bad-boy type; I liked the nice guys, and ended up marrying a pretty good one. I never was into hard rock or rap, and because of it, my childhood music idol can safely be the same for my children. (He hasn’t died of a massive drug overdose, been shot in prison, or done a few stints in Celebrity Rehab.) I’m okay with my kids singing along to “Yoda” or “White and Nerdy” because there are no four letter words or drug references in his songs.
It’s been my pleasure introducing my kids to Weird Al’s music. We sing along on car rides together. In fact, they wouldn’t be here at all if not for Weird Al. The very first time I was in Jesse’s car, in Summer 2000, he played a tape with the song “One More Minute” on it. I knew then that this guy was a keeper. We sing that song as a family now. And when he goes on tour for this newest album, you can bet that there will be five tickets purchased to see him, front row.