In a wide-ranging interview in the latest MOJO magazine, in which he looks back on the many phases and stages of his career, Randy Newman reflects on the characters he has created and how, much to his chagrin, some of them have escaped the page. One even appears to have become President of the United States…
“Someone wrote recently that Trump is like a character in a Randy Newman song come to life,” Newman tells MOJO’s Andrew Male, “and he is! He’s like my people. I never thought you’d see anybody worse than the My Life Is Good guy, anyone that ignorant and arrogant at the same time. But… he’s that guy!”
It’s probably fair to say that no other songwriter has inhabited such problematic characters as Newman, from the white Southern racist of 1974’s Rednecks and the entitled blowhard of My Life Is Good to the comically prejudiced narrator of his 1977 hit, Short People.
But as Newman explains in the issue of MOJO on sale in the UK now, some of his creations have been received more enthusiastically than he’s comfortable with.
“Short People got more attention than I would have thought,” he says. “I don’t think that much of it.”
“There’s no song that says, ‘Come on, be an atheist!’”
He also worries about his use of the N-word in Rednecks: “I used to think I needed it for the song,” he says. “But things have changed. I don’t think it’s OK, even in a song, anymore. I don’t play it any more.”
In thoughtful mode, Newman weighs his commercial successes and failures against his internal standard of quality. Astonishingly, he mostly he finds them wanting.
Also on the agenda: a brand new Randy Newman new album, *Dark Matter, which begins with a perfect Randy Newman conceit. The Great Debate is an eight-minute polyphonic conversation between reason and religion where science is defeated by the power of music.
“You can’t fight gospel music,” says Newman, an atheist. “You can’t fight a Beethoven mass, or the height of cathedral ceilings. There’s no song that says, ‘Come on, be an atheist!’ You can’t win.”