Offensive Randy Newman

Randy NewmanWill pointed out that I hadn’t done a week of Randy Newman. And given that we was a very big part of my life at one time, I thought this would be a good thing. But I figured that I would constrain the choices by only doing offensive Randy Newman songs. Now don’t be smart! I know that leaves a lot of choices, but it certainly isn’t the case that most of his songs are offensive.

In fact, off his first album, Randy Newman, there isn’t a lot of offensive material. But there is a classic of Newman’s own brand of offensiveness: “Davy the Fat Boy.” It starts with the singer talking about how he’s been friends with Davy since they were very young. And Davy’s parents told the singer to take care of Davy after they go. So what does the singer do? He turns Davy into a carnival freak.

Randy Newman World

It’s really horrible. But it is typical of Randy Newman’s wit. The universe of his songs is not a pleasant one. People are cruel to each other. The best you can hope for in Newman’s world is a small amount of pity and the recognition that we are all damned.

Consider the song “Old Man” off his later album, Sail Away. It is a tender goodbye to an old man who is dying — I assume his father. But it is thoroughly mocking. Newman will not allow the old man any of the standard illusions that people use at that time. The only thing that makes the song not completely horrific is the understanding that the singer will face exactly the same thing soon enough.

“Davy the Fat Boy” works on a whole other level. Maybe it is the case that the singer is doing right by Davy. If there weren’t a good deal vagueness, it wouldn’t be a Randy Newman song.

On the other hand, if you want to get an idea of the sadness that underlies everything Newman did, you can listen to I Think It’s Going To Rain Today.

2 thoughts on “Offensive Randy Newman

  1. Harry Nilsson thought Newman was great, so there’s that, Nilsson also thought Badfinger was great, and I think he was closer to fine on that than he was by adoring Newman, but everyone has their opinions.

    I loathe Newman. But mostly for the song “Short People.”

    • Well, you will be pleased to know that I’m not planning to do that song. But it is in the tradition. If you only listen to one thing, make sure you listen to “Political Science” (on Wednesday, I think).

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