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Weird Al Encourages Kids to Follow Their Muse

Comedian and musician “Weird Al” Yankovic has been entertaining audiences for almost 30 years with his musical parodies, amassing dozens of gold and platinum albums and winning three Grammy awards. Earlier this month, the performer explored a new creative outlet with the release of his first children’s book When I Grow Up, which debuted at #4 on the New York Times Bestsellers list. Written by Yankovic, who dropped the “Weird” moniker for the book cover, and illustrated by Wes Hargis, the picture book follows the musings of 8-year-old Billy after his teacher asks him what he wants to be when he grows up. Billy considers some very unique careers, such as a lathe operator for X-14 rocket parts, a world famous Twinkie cooking French chef, and a gorilla masseuse. The story is told with Yankovic’s trademark offbeat humor, but it does have a heartfelt message at it’s core. “You don’t need to be defined by your job,” Yankovic explains in a interview with NPR. “You can really kind of follow your muse.”

Like little Billy’s job interests, Yankovic’s path to musical success wasn’t exactly linear. When he told his elementary school guidance counselor that he aspired to be a writer for Mad magazine, he was encouraged to follow a more practical career like architecture. Though Yankovic did end up graduating with a degree in architecture from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, it was never his passion. The college radio station, where Yankovic worked as a DJ, was where he found his real joy and earned the “Weird Al” handle. His work on-air inspired him to make a homemade recording of My Bologna a humorous riff on the The Knack’s hit My Sharona. The song became a cult hit on the Dr. Demento Show, a nationally syndicated radio show. From there, the artist landed a recording contract and his career took off. Yankovic credits his father with giving him the confidence to pursue his dreams. He imparted the idea that a person is truly a success when he can support himself doing what he loves. This is the key idea in When I Grow Up. “The message that I’m trying to get across to kids is that there is in fact a universe of possibilities out there,” Yankovic states.

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