Randy Newman is 70, tomorrow

For someone once best known for the misunderstood song Short People, Randy Newman has had a not bad career.

Did I ever tell my “I sorta met Randy Newman” story? Probably.

I was at the Poughkeepsie, NY train station in mid-May 2000, returning from a conference. There was a guy at the station, with a woman and two children, and he looked very much like Randy Newman. So I walked over to him, and said, “Excuse me.” And he said, “Randy Newman.”

This is what I wanted to say: “Wow, I’ve loved your music ever since [the #1 song, below.] I sure hope you get that Oscar you deserve [he has since gotten two, in twenty nominations]. You know, that damn song on Toy Story 2 [When Somebody Loved Me [LISTEN], written by Newman, sung by Sarah McLaughlin] made me cry! I even like you in those Band Aid commercials [he was appearing in at the time].”

But I was so thrown off by his response that all I said was, “Oh, OK.” Ah, a treppenwitz moment.

Not only did the prolific songwriter and film scorer finally get a couple Oscars, both for songs he wrote for Pixar films, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. He wrote, among MANY other songs, Mama Told Me Not to Come [LISTEN to his version], a big hit for Three Dog Night. Almost There [LISTEN] from the Disney animated film The Princess and the Frog, sung by Anika Noni Rose, is a recent song of his I’ve enjoyed.

For someone once best known for the misunderstood song Short People [LISTEN], not a bad career.

Here are 10 songs:

10. You Can Leave Your Hat On [LISTEN]– Sail Away (1972). A song that sounds sexy when performed by someone like Joe Cocker, but seems somewhat sordid when Newman does it.

9. Feels Like Home [LISTEN] -Harps and Angels (2008). This was originally performed by Bonnie Raitt on his 1995 Faust album, but I’m glad he decided to perform it himself. He’s ambivalent about the tune becoming a wedding favorite.

8. Potholes[LISTEN] – Harps and Angels (2008). The song is based on an embarrassing true story told about Newman by one of his loved ones to another.

7. I’m Dreaming[LISTEN] -free download (2012). “With lyrics from the viewpoint of a voter who casts his ballot solely based on skin color, the song draws attention to something Newman has noticed and written about for 40 years: racism in America.”

6. Rednecks[LISTEN] -Good Old Boys (1974). The Wikipedia describes this as “a simultaneous satire on institutional racism in the Deep South and the hypocrisy of the northern states in response.”

5. It’s Money I Love[LISTEN] – Born Again (1979). Bluesy tune that may have been the best song on that album.

4. I Love LA [LISTEN] – Trouble in Paradise (1983): Is this Newman’s affection for Los Angeles, or sarcasm? Maybe both.

3. Louisiana 1927[LISTEN] – Good Old Boys (1974). After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, this became an unofficial hymn of the disaster, covered by several artists.

2. Dixie Flyer[LISTEN] – Land of Dreams (1988). A look at his childhood, one of his early attempts at autobiography.

1. Political Science [LISTEN]– Sail Away (1972). 40 years after it was released, still a stinging indictment of American xenophobia, all in two minutes.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

3 thoughts on “Randy Newman is 70, tomorrow”

  1. I knew a friend of Randy Newman’s, does that count for anything? Plus I think he wandered into Horse’s house then I was there, but I was too stoned to say anything…!

    You’re right about “Sail Away.” It could be the song behind my poem on “12 Years a Slave” this week.

    Sorry I’ve been absent of late… just getting back on track after The Hoodoo Monster stood on my head for a week… Amy

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