This week on the Fresh Air podcast, parody hitman 'Weird Al' Yankovic joins the show after the recent release of his new biopic, WEIRD, to talk about what exactly makes him "weird" in the first place, and most importantly his humble quest to bring the "sexy back" to his famed, trusty accordion.
"The thing with almost all of the musical biopics," Al believes, "is that they want to show the moment of epiphany; like, 'where did this idea come from?' Usually, the truth of the matter is, it's not a cinematic moment, it's something very internal with the songwriter. Which you can't really show on the big screen that well. So, a lot of the time it's fabricated for the sake of the movie; obviously, we take that trope and exaggerate it. Most songwriters will tell you they don't have any kind of 'eureka moments' like is shown in so many biopics."
Taking accordion lessons between the ages of seven to ten, Al remembers playing mostly polkas and waltz pieces -- "they didn't teach you Iron Butterfly on the accordion. Rock N' Roll wasn't something that was part of the daily lesson." His own "eureka moment" actually came after he says he "got a little bit bored after age ten and decided I would just kind of learn on my own. So, I learned to play by ear a lot of Rock N' Roll songs on the accordion."
"The accordion is actually a beautiful instrument," Al explains, "it's a very sensual instrument, and a lot of indie bands have discovered that in the last couple of decades incorporating it into their arrangements and instrumentation. Even back in the '50s with Dick Contino, he was kind of a sex-symbol playing the accordion back then... I'm just trying to bring sexy back to the accordion."
Listen to the full Fresh Air from WHYY episode with 'Weird Al' -- now streaming on Audacy. The Peabody Award-winning weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues is one of public radio's most popular programs. Hosted by Terry Gross, the show features intimate conversations with today's biggest luminaries.