08 August 2008

Something 4 The Weekend # 79

I've been completely in Randy Newman's corner since I first heard "Short People" in 1977...It's not so much that I loved the song, although I kinda did, but I loved the backlash to the song...It was sad and funny that so many people, plenty of them not very short at all, didn't get Newman's point, as simple as it was - that discriminating and hating people just because they're short is silly and stupid because nobody can control their height...So isn't just about any sort of discrimination, prejudice and hatred just as silly and stupid?

Like I said, a very simple notion, and yet so many apparently very simple people just didn't get it, or at least didn't like the way the idea was presented to them...

So, yeah, I've been in Randy Newman's camp ever since, and there are only two kinds of people in this world - those who like/love Randy Newman, and those who don't...There seems to be no middle ground with him, and as the cliche goes, that must mean he's doing something right...

My approach to his music is that he's essentially a different kind of Tom Waits.

Both emerged from the 1960's L.A. music scene, and somehow that's important.

Both tend to write lyrics from the perspective of characters, rather than themselves, and those lyrics, whether they're Waits' hardscrabble poetry, or Newman's dry satire, are steeped in Americana. In Waits, especially, it almost becomes mythological, or like a secret history of the United States...And even though Randy Newman's words can bite rather hard at the follies of mankind, you can still sense that he loves this country and the people in it. Mark Twain is another good name to drop right here, I suppose...

Likewise, both write music that is wholly American. Waits has worked his own strange magic on plenty of American musical styles over his long career - Blues, Hollers, Dixieland, Ragtime, Gospel, Country-Western, Jazz, Cocktail Jazz, R'n'B, Rock'n'Roll. Randy Newman has worked alot of those same styles as well, usually through a piano and perhaps some strings, and so there's a certain refinement to his sound, which is appropriate for the gentle sting of his lyrics.

Anyways, Randy Newman has just released a new album, Harps And Angels, and after a couple of listens so far, it's certainly shaping up to be one of the better albums in his solid discography, I'd say...I was immediately intrigued by the title of this week's S4TW song, "A Few Words In Defense Of Our Country", if only because political songs seem few and far between at a time when we actually need 'em, and here's ol' Randy to the rescue...

America, as some sort of genial old empire, settling...

Settling and slowly drifting away...




Hotcha! Hank

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