In mourning the incredible life of rock god Prince, it’s only natural for fans to share anecdotes to help with the grieving process, and hopefully help us smile through our loss. One such anecdote that surfaced on Reddit after Prince’s death was the one-of-a-kind legend’s tumultuous “feud” with Weird Al Yankovic. Not that Prince and Weird Al even really knew each other, of course. On the contrary, while they had been in the same room many times, the two musical geniuses had never actually met.
It’s no secret that Prince took himself very, very seriously in regard to his music — and why shouldn’t he have? He was motherf*cking Prince, for Christ’s sake! As such, Prince was not exactly open to parody — though he did soften in recent years like when he famously responded to Dave Chappelle’s portrayal of himself on Chappelle’s Show by slapping Chappelle’s likeness from that sketch on the cover of his freaking single art. Baller move.
So when Weird Al approached Prince several times over the course of the ’80s and ’90s about using his songs, the answer was always unequivocally a “no.” Not that Weird Al even needed permission, mind you. Under fair use of United States copyright law, Yankovic doesn’t need a sign off to produce his parodies. However, being the upstanding guy he is, he refuses to record a song without one. (To this day, Prince is one of just two artists — the other being Eminem — who have flatly refused down Yankovic’s request. Coolio is a whole different story.)
Yet the mere insinuation that his music was ripe for parody was apparently enough to land Yankovic on Prince’s blacklist, as he recalled the following anecdote to Wired years later:
But one of the oddest things to ever happen between me and Prince was the year that he and I were at the American Music Awards at the same time. Apparently I was going to be sitting in the same row as Prince that year and I got a telegram — and I wasn’t the only one — from Prince’s management company saying that I was not to establish eye contact with him during the show. I just couldn’t even believe it.
It probably didn’t help matters that Yankovic fired back with a jokey telegram of his own, saying that Prince shouldn’t be establishing eye contact with him, either. Nor likely did this “interview” Weird Al filmed with Prince in 1986:
So maybe it’s for the best that we never got a “Raspberry Sorbet” or “U Got to Cook.” But for what’s it’s worth, although they never were able to resolve their differences, Yankovic is likewise mourning the loss of a legend:
Genius recognizes genius, every time.