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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Who is Randall Stuart Newman?

Who is Randall Stuart Newman? The music and entertainment world knows him as Randy Newman. Newman  is an American singer/songwriter,[1] arrangercomposer, and pianist who is known for his mordant (and often satiricalpop songs and for film scores.

Newman often writes lyrics from the perspective of a character far removed from Newman's own experiences. For example, the 1972 song "Sail Away" is written as a slave trader's sales pitch to attract slaves, while the narrator of "Political Science" is a U.S. nationalist who complains of worldwide ingratitude toward America and proposes a brutally ironic final solution. One of his biggest hits, "Short People" was written from the perspective of "a lunatic"[2] who hates short people. Since the 1980s, Newman has worked mostly as a film composer. His film scores include RagtimeAwakeningsThe NaturalLeatherheadsJames and the Giant PeachMeet the ParentsSeabiscuit and The Princess and the Frog. He has scored sixDisney-Pixar films: Toy StoryA Bug's LifeToy Story 2Monsters, Inc.Cars and most recently Toy Story 3.
He has been awarded two Academy Awards, three Emmys, five Grammy Awards, and the Governor's Award from the Recording Academy.[3] Newman was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2007, Newman was inducted as a Disney Legend.[4] In 2011, Newman won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for Toy Story 3's "We Belong Together", which was also his 11th nomination for Best Original Song.

Early life

Newman was born November 28, 1943 in Los Angeles, California, the son of Adele (née Fox), a secretary, and Irving George Newman, an internist.[5] He lived in New Orleans as a small child and spent summers there until he was 11 years old, his family having by then returned to Los Angeles. The paternal side of his family includes three uncles who were noted Hollywood film-score composers: Alfred NewmanLionel Newman and Emil Newman. Newman's cousins Thomas and David, and nephew Joey are also composers for motion pictures. He graduated from University High School in Los Angeles. Newman attended the University of California, Los Angeles.


Newman has been a professional songwriter since he was seventeen. He cites Ray Charles as his greatest influence growing up, stating, "I loved Charles' music to excess."[6] His first single as a performer was 1961's "Golden Gridiron Boy", released when he was eighteen. However, the single flopped and Newman chose to concentrate on songwriting and arranging for the next several years. His early songs were recorded by Gene PitneyJerry ButlerJackie DeShannonThe O'Jays and Irma Thomas, among others. His work as a songwriter met with particular success in the UK: top 40 UK hits written by Newman included Cilla Black's "I've Been Wrong Before" (#17, 1965), Gene Pitney's "Nobody Needs Your Love" (#2, 1966) and "Just One Smile" (#8, 1966); and The Alan Price Set's "Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear" (#4, 1967). Besides "Simon Smith", Price featured seven Randy Newman songs on his 1967 A Price On His Head album.

In the mid-1960s, Newman was briefly a member of the band The Tikis, who later became Harpers Bizarre, best known for their 1967 hit version of the Paul Simon composition "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)". Newman kept a close musical relationship with Harpers Bizarre, offering them some of his own compositions, including "Simon Smith" and "Happyland". The band recorded six Newman compositions during their short initial career (1967–1969).

In this period, Newman began a long professional association with childhood friend Lenny Waronker. Waronker had been hired to produce The Tikis, the Beau Brummels, and The Mojo Men, who were all contracted to the Los Angeles independent label Autumn Records, and he in turn brought in Newman, Leon Russell and another friend, pianist/arranger Van Dyke Parks, to play on recording sessions. Later in 1966 Waronker was hired as an A&R manager by Warner Bros. Records and his friendship with Newman, Russell, and Parks began a creative circle around Waronker at Warner Bros that became one of the keys to Warner Bros' subsequent success as a rock music label.[7]

Recording artist

His 1968 debut album, Randy Newman, was a critical success but never dented the Billboard Top 200. Many artists, including Alan Price,Dave Van RonkJudy Collinsthe Everly BrothersClaudine LongetDusty SpringfieldNina SimonePat Boone and Peggy Leecovered his songs and "I Think It's Going To Rain Today" became an early standard.
In 1969, he did the orchestral arrangements for Peggy Lee's single Is That All There Is?, as well as her album with the same title (which also contained her cover versions of two of his songs: "Love Story" and "Linda").[8]
In 1970, Harry Nilsson recorded an entire album of Newman compositions called Nilsson Sings Newman. That album was a success, and it paved the way for Newman's 1970 release, 12 Songs, a more stripped-down sound that showcased Newman's piano. Ry Cooder's slide guitar and contributions from Byrds members Gene Parsons and Clarence White helped to give the album a much rootsier feel. 12 Songs was also critically acclaimed (6th best album of the seventies according to Rolling Stone critic Robert Christgau), but again found little commercial success, though Three Dog Night made a huge hit of his "Mama Told Me Not to Come". The following year, Randy Newman Live cemented his cult following and became his first LP to appear in the Billboard charts, at #191. Newman also made his first foray into music for films at this time, writing and performing the theme song "He Gives Us All His Love" for Norman Lear's 1971 film Cold Turkey.
1972's Sail Away reached #163 on Billboard, with the title track making its way into the repertoire of Ray Charles and Linda Ronstadt. "You Can Leave Your Hat On" enigmatically touches on what it is men find important in relationships, and was covered by Three Dog Night, thenJoe Cocker, and later by Keb MoEtta JamesTom Jones (whose version was later used for the final striptease to the 1997 film The Full Monty), and the Québécois singer Garou. The album also featured "Burn On", an ode to an infamous incident in which the heavily pollutedCuyahoga River literally caught fire. In 1989, "Burn On" was used as the opening theme to the film Major League, whose focus was the hapless Cleveland Indians.
His 1974 release Good Old Boys was a set of songs about the American South. "Rednecks" began with a description of segregationistLester Maddox pitted against a "smart-ass New York Jew" on a TV show, in a song that seems to criticize both southern racism and the complacent bigotry of American north-easterners who stereotype all southerners as racist yet ignore racism in northern states. This ambiguity was also apparent on "Kingfish" and "Every Man a King", the former a paean to Huey Long (the assassinated former Governor andUnited States Senator from Louisiana), the other a campaign song written by Long himself. An album that received lavish critical praise, Good Old Boys also became a commercial breakthrough for Newman, peaking at #36 on Billboard and spending 21 weeks in the Top 200.
Little Criminals (1977) contained the surprise hit "Short People," which also became a subject of controversy. In September 1977, the Britishmusic magazine, NME reported the following interview with Newman talking about his then new release. "There's one song about a child murderer," Newman deadpans. "That's fairly optimistic. Maybe. There's one called 'Jolly Coppers on Parade' which isn't an absolutely anti-police song. Maybe it's even a fascist song. I didn't notice at the time. There's also one about me as a cowboy called 'Rider in the Rain.' I think it's ridiculous. The Eagles are on there. That's what's good about it. There's also this song 'Short People.' It's purely a joke. I like other ones on the album better but the audiences go for that one."[9] The album proved Newman's most popular to date, reaching #9 on the US Billboard 200 chart.
1979's Born Again featured a song satirically mythologizing the Electric Light Orchestra (and their arranging style) entitled "The Story of a Rock and Roll Band".

His 1983 album Trouble in Paradise included the hit single "I Love L.A.", a song that has been interpreted as both praising and criticizing the city of Los Angeles. This ambivalence is borne out by Newman's own comments on the song. As he explained in a 2001 interview, "There's some kind of ignorance L.A. has that I'm proud of. The open car and the redhead, the Beach Boys...that sounds 'really' good to me." TheABC network and Frank Gari Productions transformed "I Love L.A." into a popular 1980s TV promotional campaign, retooling the lyrics and title to "You'll Love It! (on ABC)". The song is played at home games for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Lakers.
In the years following Trouble in Paradise, Newman focused more on film work, but his personal life entered a difficult period. He separated from his wife of nearly 20 years, Roswitha, and was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus. He has released three albums of new material as a singer-songwriter since that time: Land of Dreams (1988), Bad Love (1999), and Harps and Angels, which was released on August 5, 2008.Land of Dreams included one of his most well-known songs, "It's Money That Matters", and featured Newman's first stab at autobiography with "Dixie Flyer" and "Four Eyes", while Bad Love included "I Miss You", a moving tribute to his ex-wife. He has also re-recorded a number of his earlier songs, accompanying himself on piano, as The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 1 (2003), and continues to perform his songs before live audiences as a touring concert artist.

In the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe of 2005, Newman's "Louisiana 1927" became an anthem and was played heavily on a wide range of American radio and television stations, in both Newman's 1974 original and Aaron Neville's cover version of the song. The song addresses the deceitful manner in which New Orleans's municipal government managed a flood in 1927, during which, as Newman asserts, "The guys who ran the Mardi Gras, the bosses in New Orleans decided the course of that flood. You know, they cut a hole in the levee and it flooded the cotton fields."[10] In a related performance, Newman contributed to the 2007 release of Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino(Vanguard), contributing his version of Domino's "Blue Monday". Domino had been rescued from his New Orleans home after Hurricane Katrina, initially having been feared dead.

Film composer

 He returned to film work with 1981'sRagtime, for which he was nominated for two Academy Awards. Newman co-wrote the 1986 film ¡Three Amigos! with Steve Martin and Lorne Michaels, wrote three songs for the film, and provided the voice for the singing bush. His orchestral film scores resembles the work of Elmer Bernstein (with whom he had worked on ¡Three Amigos!) and Maurice Jarre.

Newman scored four Disney/Pixar feature films; Toy StoryA Bug's LifeToy Story 2, and Monsters, Inc. He also scored the 1996 film James and the Giant Peach and the 2006 Disney/Pixar film Cars. He returned to Disney/Pixar to score the 2010 film Toy Story 3 and 2011's Cars 2. Additional scores by Newman include AvalonParenthoodSeabiscuitAwakeningsThe PaperOverboardMeet the Parents, and its sequel, Meet the Fockers. His score for Pleasantville was an Academy Award nominee. He also wrote the songs for Turner's Cats Don't Dance.

One of Newman's most iconic and recognizable works is the central theme to The Natural, a dramatic and Oscar-nominated score, which was described by at least one complimentary critic[who?] as "Coplandesque".
Newman had the dubious distinction of receiving the most Oscar nominations (fifteen) without a single win. His losing streak was broken when he received the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2001, for the Monsters, Inc. song "If I Didn't Have You", beating StingEnyaand Paul McCartney. After receiving a standing ovation, a bemused but emotional Newman began his acceptance speech with "I don't want your pity!"
Besides writing songs for films, he also writes songs for television series such as the Emmy-Award winning current theme song of Monk, "It's a Jungle out There". Newman also composed the Emmy-Award winning song "When I'm Gone" for the final episode.
In October 2006, it was revealed that Newman would write the music for the Walt Disney movie The Princess and the Frog, which was released in December 2009. During the Walt Disney Company's annual shareholder meeting in March 2007, Newman performed a new song written for the movie. He was accompanied by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The New Orleans setting of the film played to Newman's musical strengths, and his songs contained elements of Cajun musiczydecoblues and Dixieland jazz.[11] Two of the songs, "Almost There" and "Down in New Orleans," were nominated for Oscars.[12]
In total, Mr Newman has received twenty Oscar nominations (up to and including 2011's nomination for We Belong Together), with two wins, "not a good percentage", as he said to laughter in his 2011 acceptance speech.


Musical theatre

A revue of Newman's songs, titled Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong, was performed at the Astor Place Theater in New York City in 1982, and later at other theaters around the country. The New York cast featured Mark Linn-Baker and Deborah Rush,[13] and at one point included Treat Williams.[14]
In the 1990s, Newman adapted Goethe's Faust into a concept album and musical, Randy Newman's Faust. After a 1995 staging at the La Jolla Playhouse, he retained David Mamet to help rework the book before its relaunch on the Chicago Goodman Theatre mainstage in 1996. Newman's Faust project had been many years in the making, and it suffered for it; a central joke was Newman's depiction of Faust as a shallow heavy metal music fan in thrall to Satan, and this had to be modified to accommodate the less-than-devil obsessed age of grunge rock that was in fashion by 1995.
In 2000, South Coast Repertory (SCR) produced The Education of Randy Newman, a musical theater piece that recreates the life of a songwriter who bears some resemblance to the actual Newman. Set in New Orleans and Los Angeles, it was modeled on the celebrated American autobiography, The Education of Henry Adams. Newman, together with Jerry Patch and Michael Roth, surveyed Newman's songs to find those that, taken together, depict the life of an American artist in the last half of the 20th century. After its premiere at SCR, it was reworked with additional songs written specifically for the show by Newman and presented in Seattle by ACT.
In 2010, the Center Theatre Group staged Harps and Angels, a musical revue of the Randy Newman songbook, interspersed with narratives reflecting on Newman's inspirations. The revue premiered at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and included, among other songs "I Think It’s Going to Rain Today," "Sail Away," "Marie," "Louisiana 1927," "Feels Like Home," "You've Got a Friend in Me" and "I Love L.A." The revue was directed by Jerry Zaks and featured Ryder Bach, Storm LargeAdriane LenoxMichael McKeanKatey Sagal and Matthew Saldivar. [15]

Notable performances and appearances

  • In 2000, Newman hosted a PBS special on Sunset Blvd, in his native Los Angeles. Driving a convertible, he followed the road from the Amtrak train station downtown, through Silver Lake, on past his alma mater UCLA, and finished in Santa Monica.
  • Randy Newman appeared on The Colbert Report on October 9, 2006, performing "Political Science" after his interview. At the end of the performance Stephen Colbert said "I hope they're listening in D.C." This appearance came days after North Korea conducted anunderground test of a nuclear weapon.
  • Newman appeared on the season two finale of the sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, accompanying the character Harry Solomon's performance of "Life Has Been Good To Me" on piano in a dream sequence.
  • He appeared as a musical guest at the end of the Keynote Address at Macworld's 2008 San Francisco Macworld Expo, performing the songs "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country" and "You've Got a Friend in Me".
  • Newman appeared as a musical guest on the second episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live in 1975.




Other Contributions

Film scores

Awards and honors

  • Golden Globe
    • 2000: Nominee - Original Song - "When She Loved Me" - Toy Story 2 
    • 1999: Nominee - Original Score - A Bug's Life
    • 1996: Nominee - Original Song - "You've Got a Friend in Me" - Toy Story
    • 1991: Nominee - Original Score - Avalon
    • 1990: Nominee - Original Song - "I Love to See You Smile" - Parenthood
    • 1982: Nominee - Original Song - "One More Hour" - Ragtime
  • Annie Award
    • 2007: Winner - Music in an Animated Feature Production - Cars
    • 2003: Nominee - Music in an Animated Feature Production - Monsters, Inc.
    • 2000: Winner - Music in an Animated Feature Production - Toy Story 2
    • 1997: Winner - Music in an Animated Feature Production - Cats Don't Dance
    • 1996: Winner - Music in an Animated Feature Production - Toy Story

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