Randy Newman

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Randy Newman
RandyNewman nojhf May12008.jpg
Background information
Birth name Randall Stuart Newman
Born (1943-11-28) November 28, 1943 (age 70)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Genres Piano rock, soft rock, roots rock, comedy rock
Occupations Singer-songwriter, arranger, musician
Instruments Vocals, piano
Years active 1961–present
Labels Warner Bros.
Reprise
Walt Disney (Disney·Pixar films)
DreamWorks/Interscope/Universal
Nonesuch/Elektra
Website randynewman.com

Randall Stuart "Randy" Newman (born November 28, 1943) is an American singer-songwriter,[1] arranger, composer, and pianist who is known for his distinctive voice, mordant (and often satirical) pop songs and for film scores.

Since the 1980s, Newman has worked mostly as a film composer. His film scores include Ragtime, Awakenings, The Natural, Leatherheads, James and the Giant Peach, Cats Don't Dance, Meet the Parents, Cold Turkey, Seabiscuit and The Princess and the Frog. He has scored seven Disney-Pixar films: Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Cars, Toy Story 3, and most recently, Monsters University.

Newman has been nominated for 20 Academy Awards, winning twice. He has also won three Emmys, six Grammy Awards, and the Governor's Award from the Recording Academy.[2] Newman was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2007, he was inducted as a Disney Legend.[3] Newman was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2013.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Newman was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of the former Adele "Dixie" 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 Newman, Lionel Newman and Emil Newman. Newman's cousins Thomas, Maria, David, and Joey are also composers for motion pictures. He graduated from University High School in Los Angeles. Newman studied music at the University of California, Los Angeles, but dropped out one semester shy of a B.A.[6] His parents were both from Jewish families, but Newman's household was not observant; he has since become an atheist.[7][8]

Newman was married to Roswitha Schmale, who was born in Germany, from 1967 to 1985, and they had three children.[9] He has been married to Gretchen Preece, with whom he has two children, since 1990. Gretchen's father is director Michael Preece.[10]

Songwriter[edit]

Newman has been a professional songwriter since he was 17. He cites Ray Charles as his greatest influence growing up, stating, "I loved Charles' music to excess."[11] His first single as a performer was 1962's "Golden Gridiron Boy", released when he was eighteen.[12] The single flopped and Newman chose to concentrate on songwriting and arranging for the next several years.

In various interviews, Newman has credited the Fleetwoods with giving him his first national break: the trio recorded his song, "They Tell Me It's Summer", as the B-side of one of their 11 hit singles, giving Newman great exposure and royalties (piggy-backed on the sale of the Fleetwoods' 1962 hit A-side, "Lovers By Night, Strangers By Day"). Two decades later, the Fleetwoods' founder and manager, female lead vocalist/songwriter/arranger Gretchen Christopher, selected from their recordings two more of Newman's songs to be included among 10 previously unreleased masters, for their 13th album. The Fleetwoods – Buried Treasure LP and cassette, released in 1982, included Newman's "Who's Gonna Teach You About Love" and "Ask Him If He's Got A Friend For Me".

His early songs were recorded by Gene Pitney, Jerry Butler, Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Jackie DeShannon, the 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). Price, who was enjoying great success in England at the time championed Newman by featuring 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.[13]

Randy Newman recently endorsed jazz singer Roseanna Vitro's album, The Randy Newman Project (Motéma Music, 2011).[14]

Recording artist[edit]

Newman in 1972

His 1968 debut album, Randy Newman, was a critical success but never dented the Billboard Top 200. Many artists, including Alan Price, Van Dyke Parks, Dave Van Ronk, Judy Collins, Cass Elliot, Art Garfunkel, the Everly Brothers, Claudine Longet, Dusty Springfield, Nina Simone, Lynn Anderson, Wilson Pickett, Pat Boone and Peggy Lee, covered 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").[15]

In 1970, Harry Nilsson recorded an entire album of Newman compositions (Newman played piano) called Nilsson Sings Newman. The album was not a commercial success, but critics liked it (it won a "Record of the Year" award from Stereo Review magazine), 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, then Joe Cocker, and later by Keb Mo, Etta James, Tom 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 polluted Cuyahoga 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 segregationist Lester Maddox pitted against a "smart-ass New York Jew" on a TV show, in a song that criticizes both southern racism and the complacent bigotry of Americans outside of the south who stereotype all southerners as racist yet ignore racism in northern and midwestern states and large cities. This ambiguity was also apparent on "Kingfish" and "Every Man a King", the former a paean to Huey Long (the assassinated former Governor and United 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 British music 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."[16] 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." The ABC 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, and the Los Angeles Kings use the song along with their goal horn.

In 2003 Newman's song "It's a Jungle Out There" was used for season 2 of the USA Network's show Monk; it won him the 2004 Emmy Award for Best Main Title Music.

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 best-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.[citation needed] (In an interview with Glenn Tilbrook, half of the writing partnership of English pop band Squeeze, to promote the album, probably on BBC radio, Newman acknowledged that "I Miss You" was written for his ex-wife. When asked by Tilbrook how his current wife felt about this, Newman said that though he had always been obedient to his wives in most things there was one area in which he did as he chose; "I write what I write", he said.) He has also re-recorded a number of songs that span his career, accompanying himself on piano, with The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 1 (2003) and The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 2 (2011). He continues to perform his songs before live audiences as a touring concert artist.

Newman with Neil Diamond in August 2012

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 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."[17] 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[edit]

Newman's work as a film composer began in 1971, with his work on the Norman Lear satire Cold Turkey. He returned to film work with 1981's Ragtime, 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 resemble the work of Elmer Bernstein (with whom he had worked on ¡Three Amigos!) and Maurice Jarre.

Newman has scored seven Disney/Pixar feature films; Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Cars, Toy Story 3, and Monsters University. He has earned at least one Academy Award nomination for each of the films he has scored for Pixar, winning the award for Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 3, both times in the category of Best Original Song. Additional scores by Newman include Avalon, Parenthood, James and the Giant Peach, Seabiscuit, Awakenings, The Paper, Meet 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 reviewer David Ansen of Newsweek as "Coplandesque". A shortened version of this score is used as entrance music by Billy Joel at the start of his shows.

Newman had the dubious distinction of receiving the most Oscar nominations (15) 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 Sting, Enya and Paul McCartney. After receiving a standing ovation, a bemused but emotional Newman began his acceptance speech with "I don't want your pity!" When the orchestra began playing the underscore signifying that the speaker's time on stage is concluding, Newman ordered them to stop before thanking "all these musicians, many of whom have worked for me a number of times and may not again."

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.

Newman wrote the music for the Walt Disney movie The Princess and the Frog. 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 music, zydeco, blues and Dixieland jazz.[18] Two of the songs, "Almost There" and "Down in New Orleans", were nominated for Oscars.[19]

In total, Newman has received 20 Oscar nominations with two wins, both for Best Original Song. While accepting the award for "We Belong Together" in 2011, he joked "my percentages aren't great."[20]

Filmography[edit]

Musical theatre[edit]

A revue of Newman's songs, titled Maybe I'm Doing It Wrong, was performed at the Astor Place Theatre 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,[21] and at one point included Treat Williams.[22]

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.[citation needed]

In 2000, South Coast Repertory (SCR) produced The Miseducation 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.[citation needed]

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 Large, Adriane Lenox, Michael McKean, Katey Sagal and Matthew Saldivar.[23]

Notable performances and appearances[edit]

  • In 1985 Newman performed a set at the first Farm Aid concert that featured a duet with Billy Joel on facing grand pianos. Newman performed "Sail Away".
  • 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 an underground 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,[24] on the show's Mardi Gras special in 1977,[25] and again on December 8, 1979.[citation needed]
  • In June 2010, Newman was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Monty Python's Eric Idle presented at the ceremony.
  • In February 2013, Newman performed at the public memorial for Dr. Jerry Buss, the long time owner of the LA Lakers. Newman's "I Love LA" has served as an unofficial anthem to LA sports teams, Buss' memorial service was at L.A.'s Nokia Theatre where Oscar winner Newman took to the stage to sing his hit "You've Got a Friend in Me".[26]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Compilations[edit]

Other contributions[edit]

Film scores[edit]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 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

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Desert Island Discs featuring Randy Newman". Desert Island Discs. 2008-10-19. BBC. Radio 4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/desertislanddiscs_20081019.shtml.
  2. ^ See his career chronology at Randynewman.com
  3. ^ Randy Newman Disney Legend. Legends.disney.go.com. Retrieved on 2012-07-13.
  4. ^ "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Announces 2013 Inductees". Rockhall.com (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). December 11, 2012. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 
  5. ^ White, Timothy (December 9, 2000). "Randy Newman's America: A Portrait of the Artist". Billboard 112 (50): 16. ISSN 0006-2510. 
  6. ^ "Randy Newman Biography". Rolling Stone. 
  7. ^ "Randy Newman". Salon.com. 1999-08-24. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  8. ^ "celebrity jews | j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California". Jweekly.com. 2004-02-20. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  9. ^ Lubow, Arthur. "Randy Newman". People.com. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  10. ^ Peppard, Alan (1997-10-13). "Archives | The Dallas Morning News, dallasnews.com". Nl.newsbank.com. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  11. ^ All Songs Considered (2008-08-04). "Guest DJ Randy Newman". NPR. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  12. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (3 November 1962). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media. pp. 4–. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 13 July 2012. 
  13. ^ Fred Goodman, The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen and the Head-on Collision of Rock and Commerce (Random House, 1997), p.65
  14. ^ All About Jazz. "Roseanna Vitro: Following Her Muse". Allaboutjazz.com. Retrieved 2011-09-19. 
  15. ^ Peggy Lee discography. Peggylee.com. Retrieved on 2012-07-13.
  16. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 304. CN 5585. 
  17. ^ Village Voice. (2008-09-12) Newman discusses "Louisiana 1927" in a Village Voice interview. Blogs.villagevoice.com. Retrieved on 2012-07-13.
  18. ^ Burlingame, Jon (November 16, 2009). "Newman mines Big Easy music for 'Frog'". Variety. Archived from the original on 2011-06-29. 
  19. ^ "Randy Newman, T Bone Burnett Earn Oscar Nominations". Billboard. February 2010. 
  20. ^ Chilton, Martin (28 February 2011). "Oscars 2011: Randy Newman wins best joker award". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  21. ^ Gussow, Mel (March 15, 1982). "A Revue Built From Newman's Music". New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2010. 
  22. ^ "New 'Wrong' Is Almost Right". Miami News (AP report, archived). March 1982. 
  23. ^ "World Premiere of Randy Newman's Harps and Angels Opens Nov. 21". Playbill. November 21, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Saturday Night Live Transcripts Season 1 Episode 2". 
  25. ^ "Saturday Night Live Transcripts Season 2 Mardi Gras Special". 
  26. ^ "Randy Newman | Randy Newman Performs At Jerry Buss' Memorial". Contactmusic.com. 2013-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  27. ^ Contributing his version of Domino's "Blue Monday".

External links[edit]