8 things you need to know about Weird Al Yankovic

Weird Al Yankovic has taken the Internet by storm this week. Weird who? If you have to ask, then read on.

The 55-year-old American kickstarted his return to the limelight by releasing the celebrity-cameo-packed music video for Tacky on July 14. The song, his parody of Pharrell Williams' hit Happy, featured appearances by Jack Black, Margaret Cho and Kristen Schaal.

He followed it up on July 15 with Word Crimes, the even better parody of Robin Thicke's once-ubiquitous hit Blurred Lines.

All this is in aid of his new album Mandatory Fun, also released on Monday.

Here are eight things you might not have known about Weird Al Yankovic.

1. The California-born songwriter/performer landed his first recording contract thanks to, My Bologna, a spoof of The Knack's hit song My Sharona.

The then-19-year-old architecture student and DJ recorded the song in a bathroom in the university and sent it to Dr. Demento's comic radio show.

Yankovic met The Knack's lead singer Doug Fieger, who had liked My Bologna, and the latter recommended the budding comedic singer to Capitol Records vice president Rupert Perry. Yankovic landed a six-month contract and My Bologna was his first single.

2. The only child learnt to play the accordion from age five thanks to a door-to-door salesman who was selling lessons at the local music school. Weird Al's real name is Alfred Matthew Yankovic. His stage name came from a nickname fellow university students bestowed on him.

3. His first big Top 20 hit was Eat It, a parody of Michael Jackson's Beat It. Released in 1984, the parody's popularity was driven by its music video, a shot-for-shot remake of Jackson's landmark music video.

This was the early years of MTV, which powered MJ's, and Weird Al's, success. Eat It made it all the way to No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, and earned a Grammy Award for Weird Al for Best Comedy Recording.

4. Weird Al had to wait another 22 years before he had another hit that bettered the performance of Eat It. White & Nerdy, a spoof of Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone's rap hit Ridin', blazed a trail to No. 9 on Billboard's Hot 100.

According to Weird Al's Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) conversation with fans on Tuesday, Chamillionaire approached him on the Grammy red carpet: "I ran into him on the Grammy red carpet a few years ago, right after he had won the award for Rap Song of the Year. He thanked me, because he said my parody made it undeniable that his song (Ridin') was, in fact, the Rap Song of the Year!"

5. Weird Al, who is married and has a daughter, is a vegan. His elderly parents died in a freak accident in their home in 2004. The flue to their wood-burning fireplace was closed, causing carbon monoxide to accumulate in the house, which led to the accidental suffocation of 86-year-old Nick Yankovic and 81-year-old Mary.

6. For the first half of his career, Weird Al was as known for his appearance - mustache, thick glasses and tight, curly hair - as his music. But he underwent lasik surgery to correct his vision in 1998, shaved off his mustache and grew out his hair after.

7. In his lengthy music career, he has earned 11 Grammy nominations and won three, and sold more than 12 million albums.

8. He is known for his comic songs, but he is also a music video director, having directed for bands such as Ben Folds and The Black Crowes.

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