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Having a Party with Parody Songs
Parody songs use melodies from popular songs set to different, often humorous, lyrics. One of the most popular parody songs of all time was "On Top of Spaghetti," by Tom Glazer from 1963, spoofing the folk classic "On Top of Old Smokey." Sometimes parody songs pop up during elections to make fun of political candidates. That has been a trend since YouTube became popular. Parodies are also used to spoof songs that get over-played on the radio. The following are some highlights of parody music history.
"Weird Al" Yankovic
The most successful parody recording artist of all time is Alfred Yankovic, better known as "Weird Al." He has sold millions of albums since 1979 when he first came on the scene with "My Bologna." The song used the melody to the biggest hit that year, which was "My Sharona" by The Knack. A famous national radio program called the Dr. Demento Show helped put Yankovic's music on the map.
He was born in Los Angeles in 1959. He attended Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, where he studied to become an architect. What changed his career path was getting to do a radio show on the campus station. That's where he recorded his first hit "My Bologna" in a men's bathroom.
Sometimes a parody song can reflect the sound of a style, which is how Richard Cheese and the Lounge Against the Machine became well known. The band does cover songs of lounge music popularized by artists such as Frank Sinatra. They also transform rock songs into lounge music. Born Mark Davis in 1965, he later changed his name to Richard Cheese. The band has recorded lounge parody albums since 2000. They owe their exposure both to television and radio.
After being frequently featured on nationally syndicated radio shows, the band started to become popular in 2004 with a cover of the song "Down With the Sickness" by Disturbed. The cover was featured in the remake version of the film Dawn of the Dead. Richard Cheese went on to make his own solo recordings such as a 2011 parody of the internet hit "Friday" by Rebecca Black.
"Gilligan's Island (Stairway)"
The TV series Gilligan's Island was not considered a big success during its initial run for three seasons beginning in 1964, but eventually became one of the most popular syndicated rerun series in television history. Part of what makes the show so memorable is its opening theme song. It's a fun sing-along song that anyone can learn in a short time.
The song got a second life in 1979 when Little Roger and the Goosebumps recorded a parody of the theme, setting its lyrics to the tune "Stairway To Heaven" by Led Zeppelin, listed as "Gilligan's Island (Stairway)." Just as the song was starting to become a hit, Led Zeppelin's management found out and had all the copies destroyed, although it has resurfaced on YouTube.
"Blowin' In The Wind"
Even though "Blowin' In The Wind" by Bob Dylan has been one of the most covered songs, many music fans do not realize that it's a parody of a much earlier folk song. The song's melody was based loosely on a song sung by slaves on plantations called "No More Auction Block For Me." The song was also known as "Many Thousands Gone." It's an example of a more serious type of parody. Dylan actually recorded a version of the original song in 1962, a year before "Blowin' In The Wind" came out, but it did not get released until 1991 as part of a rarities collection.