|Single by Randy Newman|
|from the album Little Criminals|
|B-side||"Old Man On The Farm"|
|Producer(s)||Lenny Waronker, Russ Titelman|
"Short People" is a song by Randy Newman from his 1977 album, Little Criminals. The verses and chorus are lyrically constructed as a prejudiced attack on short people. In contrast, the bridge states that "short people are just the same as you and I." Newman interprets the song to be about "prejudice" as was widely thought, but added that it was "about a lunatic". As with many of his songs such as "Rednecks", Newman wrote the song from the point of view of a biased narrator. Like Dire Straits' 1985 hit single, "Money for Nothing", which used the same lyrical technique, the song was misunderstood by many listeners who wrongly assumed that it reflected Newman's personal viewpoint.
Newman would later grow to dislike the song and its success, eventually calling it a "bad break", a "novelty record like The Chipmunks", and said it caused him to receive several threats regarding its misinterpreted message. However, it ended up being included on almost every one of his greatest hits albums.
Although Newman had never charted a single before, and his previous album, Good Old Boys, had been his first to reach the Billboard 200, "Short People" soon gained attention as a novelty song. The song consequently became a major hit on radio peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100; it was kept from reaching No. 1 by Player's "Baby Come Back" and the Bee Gees "Stayin' Alive".
The song follows a basic musical formula with bass and drums centering on Newman's catchy pop piano line in the key of A major. A small brass section and an electric guitar occasionally rise into the mix and conga drums (played by Los Angeles-based session musician Milt Holland) also feature prominently in the song.
Appearances in popular culture
The song was performed by actor James Coco on a 1978 episode of The Muppet Show. Other television shows to feature the song include Ally McBeal, The Chipmunks Go to the Movies, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Doogie Howser, M.D., The Cleveland Show, and The Simpsons.
A MADtv sketch parodying Newman's songwriting abilities also made references to the song.
The song is mistakenly mentioned as one of Michael Scott's favorite Bruce Springsteen songs in US version of the The Office episode "Crime Aid," however, it is comically implied the character of Michael Scott does not realize this is not a Bruce Springsteen song. In 2009, the song was parodied by conservative political satirist Paul Shanklin as "Old People" with Shanklin doing a voice impersonation of American President Barack Obama on the health care reform debate in the United States.
Andrew Hansen, an Australian satirical comedian, also performed this song on the comedy show Good News Week. Initially in the show he disclaimed the lyrics stating that he didn't hate short people—it was Randy Newman's lyrics (a reference to a skit he earlier participated in that questioned the legitimacy of charities for sick children and caused him, and his group The Chaser, to be temporarily suspended from television). Later in the show he performed the song again with his own lyrics referring to Adolf Hitler, Centrelink and popular television personalities including the show's host Paul McDermott.
The song was used in a good-humored, self-referential manner by Thomas Quasthoff, the great classical and jazz singer marked with heavy birth defects.
Weekly singles charts
- Randy Newman ‒ lead vocals, piano
- Glenn Frey ‒ backing vocals
- J.D. Souther ‒ backing vocals
- Jim Keltner ‒ drums
- Klaus Voormann ‒ bass guitar
- Milt Holland ‒ congas
- Timothy B. Schmit ‒ backing vocals
- Waddy Wachtel ‒ electric guitar
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