You’ve got a friend in Randy New­man

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - ART & MUSIC -

MAYBE his rel­a­tive anonymity set Randy New­man free and al­lowed him to write in a way that he would have been pre­vented from do­ing had he more money and fame. Still, I can’t help think­ing that in an ideal world (one which New­man has al­ways en­joyed satiris­ing), the Amer­i­can would have sold more records than he did and would be more rich and fa­mous than he is.

“I think if I had more suc­cess it might have pres­sured me out of writ­ing just what­ever I wanted to write — I don’t have that strong a char­ac­ter,” he once said. He added of his re­la­tion­ship with fame, “The num­bers say that I wouldn’t have han­dled it par­tic­u­larly well. Y’know, if I took pills, I would take more. Thank God I didn’t like co­caine. I think I’d have been pretty bad as a per­son. And maybe I was any­way, but I don’t think I could have han­dled [suc­cess]. For­tu­nately I wrote stuff that peo­ple didn’t like. I dodged a bul­let there.”

As he sang in his 1970 song Lonely At The Top: “Lis­ten all you fools out there/go on and love me — I don’t care.” But we care — I’m de­lighted he is play­ing two nights at Vicar Street in Dublin next March. ‘You’ve Got to Let This Fat Boy in Your Life’. That was the head­line of the 1972 in­ter­view in Rolling Stone magazine with New­man. In fair­ness, the head­line was a tongue-in-cheek pre-fat-sham­ing ref­er­ence to Davy The Fat Boy from his self-ti­tled de­but al­bum.)

In 1970, he told a re­porter for New Mu­si­cal Ex­press: “In a word, I’m bor­ing.” Over five decades later, a word to de­scribe New­man would pos­si­bly be ‘ge­nius’. The Everly Broth­ers, Nina Si­mone and Ray Charles are among many artists who have cov­ered New­man’s songs, while Elvis Costello and Tom Waits have cited him as an in­flu­ence.

When the Randy New­man al­bum came out in 1968, Paul Mccart­ney rang him at home in Los Angeles to congratulate him.

In 2009, when Bob Dy­lan was sup­posed to be talking up the re­lease of his new al­bum, To­gether Through Life, he in­stead had these well-earned words of praise for New­man: “I think of him as the Crown Prince, the heir ap­par­ent to Jelly Roll Mor­ton (the early jazz pi­anist and band­leader). His style is de­ceiv­ing,” Dy­lan said. “He’s so laid back that you kind of for­get he’s say­ing im­por­tant things. Randy’s sort of tied to a dif­fer­ent era like I am.”

The mag­nif­i­cently mor­dant Amer­i­can singer-song­writer was brought to the aware­ness of a younger age group with cer­tain com­po­si­tions, most no­tably You’ve Got A Friend In Me from Toy Story and If I Didn’t Have You from Mon­sters, Inc.

His am­bi­tious new al­bum Dark Mat­ter — his first since 2008’s Harps and An­gels — brings to­gether his fa­mous dry wit with gospel songs and some spec­tac­u­lar or­ches­tral scores.

The eight-minute open­ing track The Great De­bate is a sci-fi opera that at one point has one of the characters in it an­nounc­ing: “Do your­self a favour and use our mu­sic/ Your mu­sic is mak­ing peo­ple sick.” Putin has Randy pay­ing his own par­tic­u­lar brand of ho­mage to the Rus­sian supremo: “He can power a nu­clear re­ac­tor/from the left side of his brain.”

Broth­ers has the imag­ined White House con­ver­sa­tion in 1961 be­tween John F Kennedy and his brother Bobby pre-bay Of Pigs.

In­trigu­ingly, there is not as much as a song satiris­ing the present — and much satirised — res­i­dent of the White House.

“I did write one, just for the hell of it,” he told Un­cut magazine re­cently, “but it was just too vul­gar. My way into it was to come at it from a fe­male point of view — like it was Ivanka hav­ing a dig at Daddy. But the sub­ject is too sore to get into.”

Randy New­man is one of the great song­writ­ers of his — or any — gen­er­a­tion. ‘Dark Mat­ter’, his first al­bum in nine years, will not do his rep­u­ta­tion any harm, writes Barry Egan

Randy New­man plays Vicar Street in Dublin on March 9 and 10, 2018

Randy New­man’s am­bi­tious new al­bum brings to­gether his fa­mous dry wit with gospel songs and some spec­tac­u­lar or­ches­tral scores

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