Sunday, December 2, 2012

James Brown's "Living In America"/Weird Al's "Living With A Hernia"

When I think of the '80s, I don't usually think of The Godfather of Soul.

Released in 1986, "Living In America" became Brown's first Top 40 hit in a decade, and as of this writing, his last (sure, he's dead, but come on, that never stopped 2Pac). However, I'm wondering just how glad Brown was to have been living in America just a couple of years later, when he was arrested for drugs and weapons charges, then led police on a high-speed car chase, and was ultimately sentenced to six years in prison (of which he served three). I suppose one could say that James Brown "served for his country."

But before all that image-burnishing, there was Rocky IV. I'm not sure if "Living In America" was written specifically for Rocky IV, but it might as well have been.

I remember my roommates in college catching Rocky IV on TV and laughing copiously; I wandered in and out of the room, and did not feel like I was missing a cinematic treasure. I just read the plot summary on Wikipedia. Let me get this straight: over-the-hill Apollo Creed challenges a young and studly Soviet boxer who's pumped up on steroids to a fight, Apollo dies in the ring, Rocky avenges Apollo's death by training in the Russian mountains with an axe and a sled, he beats the chemically enhanced Soviet boxer using nothing but his hard work and determination, and then he gives a big speech about the Cold War? Hmmmm. I seem to recall the first Rocky being at least somewhat plausible. I mean, why not have Luke Skywalker swoop down and blow up the Death Star while we're at it? And have hobbits and oompa-loompas help Rocky train?

Ah, but thanks to Weird Al, whenever I hear "Living In America," I never think of Rocky Balboa saving the free world from communism. Oh no. I always think of a man with a very painful medical condition.

"Living With A Hernia" became the lead-off track to Polka Party, which, according to Wikipedia, "holds the dubious honor of being the lowest charting studio album released by Yankovic." I'm not sure how Weird Al managed to receive parody permission from a man with such a bad attitude, but props to the Hardest Working Man in Showbusiness for being willing to go along with jokes about intestines. It also probably helped that at the time, James Brown and Weird Al shared record labels.

The song quickly becomes a contest to see how many words Weird Al can come up with that end in "-ation." We've got: "aggravation," "ruination," "location," "humiliation," "irritation," "medication." I'll bet if the situation called for it, he could've come up with more. There's also a highly educational section where he names several different types of hernias, in lieu of Brown's naming several different American cities. I mean hell, I already know the names of American cities.


Herr Zrbo said...

Never before heard or seen this one. Love the near perfect imitation of the original video. Also, gotta love that cape routine.

Little Earl said...

Never heard or seen what? "Living With A Hernia"? "Living In America"? Both? Neither?

Herr Zrbo said...

Sorry, I haven't ever heard the Weird Al version, nor seen the video.