Weird Al's Latest Lampoon Is Paradise Lost
By Joe Logan

Source: Chicagoland Express
Date: April 20, 1996
Page 1

Coolio's not amused, but a lot of other folks are having a good laugh.

The chart-topping rapper, known for his tonsorial eccentricity, is the latest target of master parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic, whose new CD scores a direct hit on the Grammy-winning rap anthem Gangsta's Paradise. Only this version, called Amish Paradise, is set in the mean streets of Lancaster County, PA.

The video for the song - the first single from Yankovic's Bad Hair Day released recently - opens to a view of what appears to be Amish country; a black buggy on a dirt road, Weird Al in long beard and traditional black Amish hat and coat. (His costume research, say Yankovic, consisted of renting the movie Witness).

When we first see Yankovic, he's standing in an open field, his head down. Slowly, he raises his head, and the rap begins:

"As I walk throught the valley where I harvest my grain"
"I take a look at my wife and realize she's very plain."
"But that's just perfect for an Amish like me"
"You know I shun fancy things like electricity

On it goes, Coolio's scenes of the inner city replaced by Weird Al doing an erotic butter churn, giving boorish tourists the one-finger salute, and solemnly intoning such lyrics as, "If I finish all of my chores and you finish thine, then tonight we're gonna party like it's 1699." Or how about "So don't be vain and don't be whiny. Or else, my brother, I might have to get medieval on your hiney?"

It's decidedly, unquestionably, politically incorrect. But to less sensitive souls, Amish Paradise is nothing short of hilarious. Enough so that MTV has the video, which features Florence Henderson, in "stress rotation," meaning it's airing between 10 and 17 times a week.

Filmed in two days on a farmland outside Los Angeles, Amish Paradise is classic Yankovic.

"Thanks," said a flattered Yankovic, from his home in the Hollywood Hills.

He chose the Amish, he said, because the sect's lifestyle is the antithesis of "gansta." A back-handed compliment, perhaps, though the Amish might not agree - if they ever see the video, which let's face it, isn't likely.

"My guess is, it would be pretty offensive [to them]," said Donald B. Krayhill, an expert on Amish culture, when told about the send-up. (Weird Al gives Mennonites a mention, too, appearently unaware that they're not the same as Amish.)

"They're very sincere in following their way of life out of religious conviction," said Kraybill, who teaches sociology at Elizabethtown College near Harrisburg, Pa. The video "would symbolize the depravity of the outside world and confirm their suspicions about the vice and vanity of the larger world."

Coolio, whose rap was heard in teh 1995 Michelle Pfeiffer film Dangerous Minds, has given Amish Paradise a chilly reception. Backstage at the Grammy Awards, he reportedly dissed both the video and Weird Al.

"Yeah, apparently Coolio is hot," admitted Yankovic, 36. "It's the result of a major miscummunication."

Way back, when he decided he wanted to lampoon Gangsta's Paradise, said Yankovic, he asked his record sompany, Scotti Bros., to get the nod from Coolio. That's the way he always does it, he explained.

Usually, the artists are amused. The guys in Nirvana loved it when he made Smells Like Nirvana, about how nobody could understand the words to Smells Like Teen Spirit.

A few days later, a Scotti executive bumped into COolio at a party and reported back that the rapper was OK with the idea. Weird Al began recording. Later, he heard Coolio was not OK with the idea, particularaly not on Grammy night - though that could have had something to do with Yankovic's hairdo (a homage to Coolio that also inspired the CD's title and cover art) at the American Music Awards a few weeks before.

Amish Paradise is one of a dozen cuts on Bad Hair Day. There's also Gump, a parody of Lump by the rock group Presidents of the United States of America, U2's Batman Forever theme, Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me is turned into Cavity Search ("Numb me, drill me, floss me, bill me")

Bad Hair Day is Yankovic's 10th studio album since 1979, when he began his career while an architecture student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Since then, he's been nominated for eight Grammys and has won two.

His first record, My Bologna, a spoof of The Knack's My Sharona and one of many food-inspired parodies, was produced in the men's room of the campus radio station where he worked. He sent it off to The Dr. Demento Show, a syndicated radio program featuring nutty novelty records, and a weird career was launched.

By his own account, Alfred Matthew Yankovic, an only child reared in the working-class Los Angeles suburb of Lynwood, was a nerdy kid. Matters weren't helped by having parents who insisted he study the accordion.

At Cal Poly, the 16-year-old high school valedictorian realized he wasn't nearly as serious about becoming an architect as he had thought.

Following graduation and the cult success of My Bologna, Yankovic continued writing parodies while working in the mail room of Westwood One, a radio programming syndicate whose clients incluude Dr. Demento. These days, Yankovic - whose records sell between 500,000 and 1 million - writes, directs his own videos, and mulls an increasing number of requests to direct other artists' videos.