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Weird Al Yankovic

'Weird Al' Yankovic Throws 'Pie' At New 'Star Wars' Film On New LP

Pop parodist uses melody of '70s hit 'American Pie' to poke fun at 'The Phantom Menace.'
by Contributing Editor Teri vanHorn

"Weird Al" Yankovic (pictured) mocks music by Offspring, Puff Daddy andBarenaked Ladies on Running With Scissors. ( )

LOS ANGELES -- It might seem strange to pair Don McLean's earnest '70s hit "American Pie" with a spoof of the new "Star Wars" movie, "Episode 1: The Phantom Menace." But if you're "Weird Al" Yankovic, it's a perfect fit.


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39-year-old parody artist saw the combination as an ideal marriage of pop-culture perennials.

"Each ['Star Wars'] movie is such a classic, it seemed like it was almost criminal not to pair it with a classic song," Yankovic said, speaking from his Los Angeles home Thursday.

Yankovic considered using the music of a current pop tune for "The Saga Begins," his take-off on the blockbuster film about the space-faring exploits of Jedi knights. He says that he tossed around the idea of doing something such as "Pretty Fly (For a Jedi)" to the tune of the Offspring's "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" (RealAudio excerpt). But he changed his mind, choosing the melody and arrangement of "American Pie."

Rather than letting the Offspring idea go to waste, however, he came up with "Pretty Fly (For a Rabbi)," which appears along with "The Saga Begins" on the forthcoming "Weird Al" album Running With Scissors (June 29). The collection also features send-ups of pop act Barenaked Ladies, swing band Cherry Poppin' Daddies and rapper/producer Puff Daddy.

The accompanying video to "The Saga Begins" will have its world premiere on the Internet Friday (June 25) beginning at 11 a.m. (EDT) on a specially created site located at

Yankovic said that writing a "Star Wars"-inspired parody had been on his to-do list for some time.

"What I do for a living is take advantage of pop culture phenomena, and it was no secret that a new 'Star Wars' movie would take over the world when it came out," he said.

The only problem was, Yankovic (born Alfred Matthew Yankovic) didn't have the movie itself to draw from. Like the majority of the world, he didn't have the opportunity to see the sci-fi film in advance, which made it difficult to ready the tune for release only a month after the prequel bombarded theaters. But "Weird Al" made do, spending long hours scrounging around the Internet to find tidbits on the movie's plot.

"The Internet being what it is, I was able basically to figure out 98 percent of the plot line before the movie came out," he said. "I think I changed three or four lines once I actually saw the movie, but the song was recorded by the time the movie came out."

It helped that the four-verse structure of "American Pie" dovetailed with Yankovic's satirical summary of the story. The song takes listeners through the basic plot of the film, beginning with the voyage from the planet Naboo to Tatooine in the first verse. The second verse is set on Tatooine, the third on Coruscant, and the fourth back on Naboo.

The chorus focuses on the film's key figure, Anakin, a future Jedi: "Oh my my this here Anakin guy/ May be Vader someday later/ Now he's just a small fry/ And he left his home and kissed his mommy goodbye/ Sayin' soon I'm gonna be a Jedi."

"Most 'Star Wars' die-hards are really going to enjoy it, but it's probably going to bug some of the snobs," wrote 26-year-old "Star Wars" fan Brian Powers of Denver, in an online message-board posting. "But then, it's probably going to bug some really big fans of 'American Pie,' who think it's some kind of divine historical masterpiece. As for me, I think it's damn funny."

Yankovic, who received permission from McLean to use the tune in January, said the accompanying video is modeled after "MTV Unplugged," a look chosen after his request to use footage from "The Phantom Menace" was turned down.

"We populated the audience with Tatooine locals and various aliens from the galaxy, and just thought it was a fun idea," he said of the video. Last year Yankovic had appeared in promotional spots for MTV which also borrowed from the style of "Unplugged."

"Weird Al" found his future as a musical parodist when he recorded "My Bologna," a send-up of the Knack's "My Sharona," as a college DJ in 1979. His career took off when the song became a hit on the syndicated "Dr. Demento" radio show.

Yankovic later scored hits with spoofs of Michael Jackson -- "Eat It" and "Fat," drawn from the pop superstar's "Beat It" and "Bad" -- and Madonna -- "Like A Surgeon," an alternative to her "Like A Virgin." Meanwhile, the videos accompanying Yankovic's parodies became MTV staples.

Yankovic scored his best-selling album to date with 1996's Bad Hair Day, which featured a parody of Coolio's "Gangsta Paradise" called "Amish Paradise."

While Yankovic said that spoofing artists of today is different from spoofing artists of the '80s, he said it's not necessarily more difficult.

"Nah, it's just different," he said. "Maybe there's more predominance of rap music, which means that there are more lyrics to write, but aside from that, I actually really like the music now.

"I'm a big fan of a lot of alternative music, and lately I've been trying to parody songs that I really enjoy, because I'm realizing at this stage of my life that I'm gonna have to live with these songs for a very long time.

"And I don't want to have to sing 'The Macarena' when I'm 70 years old."