Yoda (song)

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"Yoda"
Song by "Weird Al" Yankovic from the album Dare to Be Stupid
Recorded February 20, 1985
Genre Comedy rock
Length 3:58
Label Scotti Brothers
Writer(s) "Weird Al" Yankovic, Ray Davies
Producer(s) "Weird Al" Yankovic

"Yoda" is a song by "Weird Al" Yankovic from his third album, Dare to Be Stupid. It is a parody of the song "Lola" by The Kinks. Written and inspired by the events of The Empire Strikes Back, the song is told from the point of view of Jedi-in-training Luke Skywalker, and concerns his dealings with Master Yoda on the planet Dagobah. The song had initially been written and recorded in 1980, during the initial run of The Empire Strikes Back. This version of the song was a hit on the radio program, the Dr. Demento Show, and consequently, Yankovic desired to put the song on one of his albums.

However, the immensely complex process of getting permission from both George Lucas (the creator of the Star Wars franchise) and the writers of "Lola" delayed the release of the song for about five years. Eventually, Yankovic learned that The Kinks' publishers turned him down. The song may have remained unreleased, had Yankovic not run into Ray Davies (writer of "Lola") and asked him why the parody was denied. Davies claimed he had never been asked, and immediately gave Yankovic permission to record the spoof.

"Yoda" was never released as a single, and no music video was ever made for the song. Nevertheless, the parody has gone on to be one of Yankovic's most famous songs. It was re-released on his second greatest hits set (1994), the box set Permanent Record (1994), and the 2009 compilation The Essential "Weird Al" Yankovic. The song is also a staple during Yankovic's live shows, and an idiosyncratic chant (dubbed "The Yoda Chant") is often performed during the song's middle portions.

History[edit]

Early success[edit]

"Yoda" was originally written by "Weird Al" Yankovic during the initial run of the 1980 American epic space opera The Empire Strikes Back.[1] The film introduced the character of Yoda, the ancient Jedi Master who trains Luke in the ways of The Force following the demise of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Indeed, Yankovic later jokingly remarked that, "Prior to The Empire Strikes Back, the thought of writing a song about Yoda had never occurred to me."[2] After the success of the movie, Yankovic toyed with the idea of writing a song based on the break-out character, but was unable to find a suitable song.[2] Yankovic, in an interview with StarWars.com, said: "I remember I was toying around with the idea of writing a song about him. I was still in college at the time, and a friend of mine named Mike suggested that I do the song to the tune of 'Lola'—which I couldn't believe that I hadn't thought of myself, since I was such a huge Kinks fan."[2]

Yankovic wrote and recorded a version of the song, using only an accordion, on a 4-track cassette Portastudio.[1][2] This version of "Yoda" was a success on The Dr. Demento Show, and even managed to hit, and hold on to, number one on the "Funny Five" countdown for several weeks.[2] This early demo was later released on the sixth volume of Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes.[3]

Obtaining permission[edit]

"Lola" was written by Ray Davies and performed by his band, The Kinks.

After the large success of the demo version, Yankovic desired to put the song on one of his albums. However, the immensely complex process of getting permission from both George Lucas and the publishers of the Kinks' "Lola" delayed the release of the song for about five years. Eventually, after Lucas gave Yankovic permission, the song's publishers turned Yankovic down. The song might have remained unreleased for some time had it not been for a chance encounter Yankovic had with the song's original songwriter, Ray Davies. When Yankovic asked why he had not given him permission, Davies remarked that he had never been asked. Davies immediately gave Yankovic permission to record the song, and the song was later released on Yankovic's third album Dare to Be Stupid. Ever since then, Yankovic has directly asked the songwriters for permission whenever possible.[1]

"Yoda" was re-recorded on February 20, 1985.[4] This version of the song does not feature accordion, and is truer, musically, to the original song. Yankovic later remarked, "It's kind of a backlash from the first album, where we had accordion on everything. It just became a little overwhelming to me."[1]

Continuing popularity[edit]

After Dare to Be Stupid was released, Yankovic considered "Yoda" little more than a "cool album track" and less of a potential single due to the age of both The Empire Strikes Back and the original song. In addition, a video for the project was out of the question, as the majority of the album's video budget went to the then-current "Like a Virgin" parody. When asked why a video was not made, Yankovic also speculated that the legal and monetary requirements to make a decent video for "Yoda" would have made the project impractical.[5] Nevertheless, the song has gone on to be one of Yankovic's most famous parodies and a fan favorite.[6] Although it was left off his first greatest hits album,[7] the song was featured on the second volume (1994),[8] the box set Permanent Record (1994),[1] and the 2009 compilation The Essential "Weird Al" Yankovic.[9] The song appeared on "The Time Machine" episode of The Weird Al Show, and on the compilation album Radio Disney: Kid Jams.[10][11]

Live performances[edit]

"Yoda" has been played at the end of every show for the tours promoting Yankovic's albums Dare to Be Stupid, Off The Deep End, Alapalooza, Bad Hair Day, Running with Scissors, Poodle Hat, Alpocalypse, and Mandatory Fun.[6][12] Starting with the Touring with Scissors tour in 1999, the song has been preceded by that album's Star Wars-themed single, "The Saga Begins." For the Straight Outta Lynwood tour, the band moved both songs to the middle of the set, and performed "Albuquerque" as their finale. Beginning in June 2010, "Yoda" has again been the final encore.[12] Unlike the album version of "Yoda", which uses the same instrumentation as "Lola", Yankovic will often add accordion accompaniment in live performances; this can be seen on the video releases "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! and "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! – The Alpocalypse Tour.[13][14]

Since 1991, an a cappella chant (often referred to as the "Yoda chant") has been included in live performances, and is considered a staple of Yankovic's shows. Midway through "Yoda", the band slowly ceases playing and goes into the chant, which Yankovic wrote himself. Originally, the chant consisted mainly of mnemonic syllables accompanied by synchronized movements from the band. It has evolved over the years to include, among other things, pieces from the Disneyland attraction Haunted Mansion ("Grim Grinning Ghosts"). Beginning with his 2010 tour, a few phrases from The Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird" and "Frère Jacques" have been included as well as the "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi" chant. On the Mandatory Fun Tour in 2015, a piece of the "four-way-crimp" from The Mighty Boosh was also added.[15]

In 2015, as part of Comedy Central's "Night of Too Many Stars", a benefit for New York Collaborates for Autism, Yankovic performed the song with 13-year-old Jodi DiPiazza, herself an autistic musical prodigy.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Hansen, Barret (1994). Permanent Record: Al in the Box (liner). "Weird Al" Yankovic. California, USA: Scotti Brothers Records. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Burton, Bonnie (October 27, 2006). "'Weird Al' – Nerdy Something". Starwars.com. Archived from the original on December 11, 2009. Retrieved January 16, 2011. 
  3. ^ Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes Volume 6 (liner). Dr. Demento. 1997. 
  4. ^ Yankovic, Alfred M. (December 2007). "Recording Dates". The Official "Weird Al" Yankovic Web Site. Retrieved June 26, 2010. 
  5. ^ Yankovic, Alfred M. (September 1998). "'Ask Al' Q&As for September, 1998". The Official "Weird Al" Yankovic Web Site. Retrieved January 16, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Bosso, Joe (April 15, 2012). "Weird Al Yankovic: My 10 Greatest Song Parodies of All Time". MusicRadar. Retrieved December 20, 2016. 
  7. ^ Greatest Hits (liner). "Weird Al" Yankovic. Scotti Bros. Records. 1988. 
  8. ^ Greatest Hits Volume II (liner). "Weird Al" Yankovic. Scotti Bros. Records. 1994. 
  9. ^ The Essential "Weird Al" Yankovic (liner). "Weird Al" Yankovic. Legacy Recordings. 2009. 
  10. ^ "Time Machine". The Weird Al Show. Season 1. Episode 5. October 11, 1997. CBS. 
  11. ^ Radio Disney: Kid Jams (liner). Various. Walt Disney Records. 1999. 
  12. ^ a b Yankovic, Alfred M. (December 2007). "Live Performances". The Official "Weird Al" Yankovic Web Site. Retrieved December 19, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Weird Al" Yankovic (1999). "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! (DVD). Los Angeles, California: Volcano Records. 
  14. ^ "Weird Al" Yankovic (2011). "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! – The Alpocalypse Tour (DVD/Blu-ray). Los Angeles, California: Comedy Central. 
  15. ^ Blistein, Jon (June 10, 2015). "Watch 'Weird Al' Record Surreal 'Yoda' Chant in Third Man Booth". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 20, 2016. 
  16. ^ Daley, Megan (March 9, 2015). "Watch 'Weird Al' Yankovic, Jodi DiPiazza Perform 'Yoda' at Night of Too Many Stars". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 19, 2016.