Randy Newman, Hall of Famer

So, let’s say I’m stuck living in a totalitarian state where my music-listening is limited to a single musician of my choice.  My selection: Randy Newman.

If I ever needed a break from his incisive lyrical social commentary, I would simply listen to his unparalleled movie scores: e.g., Ragtime, Awakenings, or The Natural.  If I had kids to placate, I’d shut them up with Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, or James & the Giant Peach.  And, hey, you don’t have to be a kid to love a song like “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”  (In fact, a former student of mine had me sing it at his wedding reception!)

I’ve been a Randy Newman disciple since college when my roommate turned me on to the masterpiece Good Old Boys (1974), a Pulitzer-worthy historical analysis of Newman’s native south.  (His family hails from New Orleans.)

On the one hand, if he isn’t known at all, his name might cause someone to say, “Isn’t he the guy who did ‘Short People?’” (His only charted song.)  On the other, most folks are surprised to discover that he’s been nominated for 20 (not a misprint) Grammies, winning only twice.

I was delighted to learn of Newman’s selection to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  Since I can’t be at his induction this evening, I humbly submit a set list in his honor:

Off 12 Songs (1970):
“Old Kentucky Home” – “But I’m alright, so I don’t care.”

From Sail Away (1972):
“Sail Away” – Best song ever about slavery
“Burn On” – Best song ever about pollution. (Wait for the concluding punch line.)
“Political Science” – Best song ever about American imperialism
“Simon Smith & the Amazing Dancing Bear” – “It’s just amazing how fair people can be.”

From Good Old Boys (1974):
“Louisiana 1927” – I was honored to sing this song in Hyde’s production of America’s Spirit (c. 1978).
“Guilty” – More biographical than I might care to admit
“Rollin’” – The first serious song I ever sang in public… in earnest. (Bowdoin College Talent Show, 1975)

Off Little Criminals (1977):
– “Jolly Coppers on Parade” – “When I’m grown that’s what I wanna be.”
– “Baltimore” – “Oh Baltimore, ain’t it hard just to live?”

From Trouble in Paradise (1983):
“My Life is Good” – Best song ever about bad parenting
“I Love L.A.” – “Crank up the Beach Boys, don’t let the music stop.”

From Land of Dreams (1988):
“Dixie Flyer” – One of the album’s 2 Newman auto-biographical songs
“New Orleans Wins the War” – The other one
“The Masterman and Baby J” – Newman’s spoof on rap and hip-hop.

From Bad Love (1999):
“Every Time it Rains” – Achingly sad and beautiful love song

Selections from Movie Scores:
– “The Natural” – I’ve substituted this for “Pomp & Circumstance” at many a Hyde graduation.
– “The End Title” – Majestic conclusion to The Natural (1984)
– “Ragtime” from Ragtime (1981)
– “Dexter’s Tune” from Awakenings (1990)

Congratulations, Randy.  And thanks for enriching my life.

Onward,  Malcolm Gauld