Day 256: Livin’ In A #1 Paradise

This is the ninth and final day this year where there is no new #1.  Today, we’re looking at one of the songs that hit #1 earlier this week.
Song: “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio feat. L.V.
Reached #1: September 9, 1995 (his first, 3 weeks)


“Gangsta’s Paradise” sounds so different from most Coolio tracks because it is – it’s a reworked cover of a Stevie Wonder track, “Pastime Paradise”, from Songs In The Key Of Life.  It’s also on the soundtrack for the Michelle Pfeiffer urban school flick, Dangerous Minds.

But that’s not why it’s here today.

The more interesting story is the one behind Weird Al Yankovic’s parody, “Amish Paradise”.  While copyright law allows Yankovic (or any parodist) to use the source material under fair use guidelines, Yankovic has always been sensitive to using other artists’ work.  So it’s been his habit to ask permission before doing a parody.

For “Amish Paradise”, he went to Coolio’s record label and asked if Coolio would approve the parody (for the record, there’s no indication as to whether he ever spoke to Wonder).  The record label, reportedly, told Yankovic that Coolio had approved.

When the song came out, Coolio make it clear that he hadn’t approved – blasting Yankovic for making light of the issues he was singing about.  Yankovic, surprised, made it clear that he’d been told by Tommy Boy Records that Coolio didn’t have a problem with it.  To date, it’s unclear if Coolio actually gave permission and later relented, Tommy Boy executives lied, or Yankovic didn’t have permission (the last is the least likely).  The mess did cause Yankovic to only issue parodies where he’s spoken to the performer and/or songwriter – although a controversy over a recent Lady GaGa parody indicates that he’ll sometimes stop with a performer’s manager (which, with the Lady GaGa parody, led to GaGa approving the parody after realizing that her manager had lied about asking her for permission). 

It took a decade, but when Coolio and Yankovic were civil to each other at a 2006 awards ceremony, it was taken as proof that they’d buried the hatchet (not in each other’s backs).

Of course, I leave you today with the parody…


On Monday, we saw the #1 soundtrack hit for a Jerry Bruckheimer smash.  Tomorrow… another one.

No songs reached #1 on September 12.


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