"Weird Al" Yankovic prides himself on getting permission from the original songwriter before doing a parody. It's an approach Al has been taking since the start of his career, and has worked well. Since everyone knows what's going on, no one gets hurt in the end.
Most songwriters have a sense of humor, but on occasion someone will deny Al permission for personal reasons. In that case, Al usually scraps the idea entirely, or saves the idea for a concert-only song.
On one occasion however, there seemed to be a misunderstanding. I'll let the artists involved tell you what happened in their own words.
Backstage at the 1996 Grammy Awards, someone asked Coolio "Have you heard 'Weird Al' Yankovic's 'Amish Paradise' yet?"
His reply was:
I ain't with that. No. I didn't give it any sanction. I think that my song was too serious. It ain't like it was "Beat It." "Beat It" was a party song. But I think "Gangsta's Paradise" represented something more than that. And I really, honestly and truly, don't appreciate him desecrating the song like that. I think he's wrong for that, because his record company asked for my permission, and I said no. But they did it anyway. I couldn't stop him. But you know, more power to him. I hope they sell a lot of records. Just stay away from me.
Coolio later went on to write a song called "Throwdown 2000," on his "My Soul" album, released in 1997, in which in part treatens:
If the shoe fit, put it on and stick
And if your ass uncash don't let your mouth write no check
Fools be in the bars unadvanced with a switch
Uppercuts and fight kicks with Weird Al Yankovich (sic)
Shortly after the Grammy Awards episode, Al faxed a note to his drummer, Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz, a regular on the newsgroup alt.music.weird-al, and asked him to post his side of the story.
Here's what the post said:
From: Bermuda Schwartz
Subject: Re Coolio, a message from Al
Date: 2 Mar 1996 22:40:50 GMT
Al is aware of Coolio's remarks at the Grammy Awards on the 28th, and I told him there have been some questions From his online fans. Al faxed me his thoughts to share with you:
Before it hits the media at large, I just wanted to set the record straight about what exactly happened regarding my getting permission for "Amish Paradise" - at least the way it appeared From my end:
A couple months ago, I told my record company that I wanted to do a parody of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise," and they said that they would look into it. Not too long after that, two separate people from my label told me that they had personally talked to Coolio at a party and that he told them that he was okay with the whole parody idea. Based on that information, I began recording the song.
Halfway into production, my record label told me that Coolio's management had a problem with the parody, even though Coolio personally was okay with it. My label told me not to worry, and that they would iron things out - so I proceeded with the recording and finished the album.
When I did the American Music Awards with Coolio, I was extremely nervous about doing the hair gag, but he was an incredibly good sport about the whole thing, which further led me to believe that things were going to work out.
Then I found out that a reporter backstage at the Grammys had asked him about "Amish Paradise" and he said that he had never approved it, and was in fact extremely upset by it. I was shocked.
Many times in my career a manager or agent has tried to nix a parody of mine, when the artist himself actually thought it was a great idea. I really thought that was what I was dealing with here. As you all know, I pride myself on being sensitive to the original artists' feelings, so you can imagine how horrible I felt when I heard what Coolio said at the Grammys.
I have since sent Coolio a very sincere and humble letter of apology, and explained the whole scenario from my perspective. I'm still not sure who's responsible for the misinformation that went on, but there definitely was a communication breakdown somewhere and now I'm sort of stuck in the middle.
Aside from all that, I hope you all enjoy the new single, album and video! We're all very happy with it, and hope you will be too. Let Bermuda know what you think...
Yours in cheese sauce,
On July 4, 1999, Al's "Behind The Music" special aired. In it we learn from Jay Levey, Al's manager, that up to that point, Coolio never mentioned another word about the parody and never brought any lawsuits against Al or his record company.
Also, by August 2000, Coolio had seemed to calm down, and all was forgiven. Jon "Bermuda" Scwartz posted to the newsgroup.
Here's what the post said:
From: Bermuda Schwartz
Subject: Re: "Amish Paradise" observation
Date: Thursday, September 19, 2002 11:14 PM
On Thu, 19 Sep 2002 15:40:33 -0000, Richie Kennedy
>Here's the Twist: "Gansta's Paradise" is itself a cover. The original
>song was "Pastime Paradise," and was written by Stevie Wonder for the
>"Songs in the Key of Life" album in 1976.
FWIW, on the syndicated radio show Love Line in August, 2000, in answer to a listener's question about permission and his comment to Coolio "I don't really understand how you were really involved, because it was really Stevie Wonder that wrote the song," Coolio replied:
"Actually, it wasn't Stevie Wonder that wrote the song. Stevie Wonder wrote a song called Pasttime Paradise. L.V. reworked the hook, a guy named Doug Rascheid reworked the music, and I wrote whole new lyrics for it, so it became an entirely different song."
Coolio later added "That's an old subject, ya know, basically I don't even think about it anymore, I don't care, ya know. Much peace to Weird Al's family."
Furthermore, four pictures surfaced that showed Al and Coolio laughing together, and hugging, at the XM Satellite booth at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV, on January 6, 2006. They clearly show any differences between these two are a thing of the past.