In 1970, Randy Newman released his second album, 12 Songs — so titled because they didn’t yet know that a more fitting title would be “Randy Newman’s Second Album That No One Will Buy.” That’s not to say that critics didn’t like it. Newman was spotted as a great talent from the beginning. That’s an interesting thing. In general, music criticism is so much better than film criticism. But that’s a subject for another day. But it didn’t turn him into star. Today, we listen to “Yellow Man.”
12 Songs is a great album. But then that’s generally true of Newman during this period. I can’t find anything in his first few albums to complain about. And that most definitely includes his next (generally dismissed) album, Randy Newman Live. I’ll feature something from it tomorrow.
The song itself is something that he does a lot: pretend to be an ignorant bigoted person. In this case, he is surprised that “yellow man” believes in the family “just like you and me”! And then it ends with what sounds like a call for segregation, “Got to have a yellow woman, when you’re a yellow man.” But this is how Newman is normally offensive. I always get the idea that he’s trying to be offensive and just using whatever device he can find to get away with it. He certainly isn’t satirizing the ignorance of this kind of racism.
In this way, Newman is more like a comedian than a musician. At the same time, I find that I rather like the object of the song. And there is comedic brilliance in that the singer clearly thinks that he is being liberal and generous. But it doesn’t reach the heights of “Political Science” — which we will get to later this week.