Born this day in 1943, Randy Newman celebrates his 66th birthday today.
Randy Newman is one of those true artists who kicks categorization in the shins and is truly unique. Even in the halls of my heroes of the singer-songwriters he seems quirky and ill-pigeon-holed.
I guess one of the reasons is, rather than the guitar...which seems the instrument-of-choice for folks of a singular voice, Newman's sidearm is the piano. He's one of those guys who uses more than 3 chords...the big showoff.
He comes from a musical family, his uncles being Alfred, Lionel and Emil Newman, who were all prominent film composers. His cousins Thomas, David and Joey are all film composers and his contemporaries.
Another trait that separates Randy from the majority of singer/songwriter's is Randy writes the majority of his songs "in character". A tool used by others in this realm to convey a viewpoint different from their own while still putting their own spin on the subject, Randy uses this almost exclusively.
This has been something which has been slightly off-putting to the casual listener. That listener who is ironic- and sardonic- challenged.
My opinion? Screw the casual listener. Songs are not meant to be background noise. Pay attention. The reward is there.
I believe the first time Randy came to the consciousness of the general American public was with this little ditty, and I seem to remember a lot of folks out there misunderstanding it's intent:
And then there was this radio hit, which I think people misunderstood as well, this time to the benefit of the song though:
Newman has always enjoyed a cult following. Those out there who "get him". The cult audience is something everyone should want. A crowd of people out there who click on the same wave-length and are there for life, not just for the next hit single.
A couple of my favorites from his "cult-album" heyday of the 1970's.
A viewpoint of America's foreign policy. One of my all-time favorites:
From a concept album which speaks of celebrity and the life of an entertainer:
From another concept album which told a story about segregation and the "Good-Ol'-Boy network" in the Southern U.S.:
Since the 1980's, Randy has drifted more and more away from the usual path, and has concentrated on film scores. Oscar nominated and winner for scores in films like "The Natural" won him big cache' in this field.
Here's a great song he wrote for the film "Parenthood":
Over the last 20+ years he's had a close relationship with the boys at Disney-adjacent film makers, with scores for "James and the Giant Peach" and especially with Pixar doing the music for their 1st 4 films "Toy Story", "A Bug's Life", "Toy Story 2" and "Monsters, Inc.". Returning for "Cars" he's now on the slate for the upcoming "Toy Story 3" and "Cars II".
Here's a couple from this period to make you smile and maybe even tear up a little:
Thanks Randy! For lyrics and music that make you feel everything!