N is for the Sardonic Randy Newman

Thursday 1st August

Randall Newman may be best known for composing film soundtracks these days.  He comes from a family of film score composers, and although an accomplished musician he started out as a singer, songwriter in the sixties.  He recorded a string of albums which while containing brilliant and memorable melodies were notable for their ironic words.   Often funny, but sometimes just vicious and maybe a bit too truthful he tore apart racial prejudice and fame and even used his own life as a source of ridicule.

He was revered amongst other artists and his songs have been recorded by Ray Charles, Linda Ronstadt, Three Dog Night and Tom Jones among many others.  In fact harry Nilsson (who will be featuring shortly as sure as Ni follows Ne) recorded a whole album of his songs.

But I still think his own simple versions, often just with a piano accompaniment are the best.  Like Bob Dylan he is not possessed with the finest voice, but he has great phrasing and an almost dead pan delivery that simply heightens the tone of sarcasm.

Since the mid-eighties he has done mostly film music, (Toy Story and Monsters Inc among many others) which while brilliant seems to me a waste of a great talent, but as Randy would be the first to admit – it pays better.

My favourite album is Little Criminals with the famous ‘Short People’ song, which on the surface takes the piss out of vertically challenged people, but like all of Randy’s songs, where the nasty sentiment ends and a deeper understanding of the nature of bigotry begins is a fine line which he has done his best to blur over the years.  He is possibly the cleverest of all artists, I still love listening to his music.  Maybe the best place to start, if you are at all interested is ‘Lonely at the Top’ – a compilation of his best early work.

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