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Randy Newman Biography

Home > Music > N > Newman, Randy > Biography

Birth Name: Randall Stuart Newman
Born: 1943/11/28
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years Active: 1961 – present
Genres: Rock, Pop, Film Scores

Randall Stuart "Randy" Newman (born November 28, 1943) is an American singer/songwriter, arranger, composer, and pianist who is known for his mordant (and often satirical) pop songs and for film scores.

Newman has been a professional songwriter since he was 17. His first single as a performer was 1961's "Golden Gridiron Boy," released when he was eighteen. However, the single flopped and Newman chose to concentrate on songwriting and arranging for the next several years. His work as a songwriter met with particular success in the UK. Top 40 UK hits written by Newman included Cilla Black's "I've Been Wrong Before" (#17, 1965), Gene Pitney's "Nobody Needs Your Love" (#2, 1966) and "Just One Smile" (#8, 1966) and The Alan Price Set's "Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear" (#4, 1967).

In this period, Newman began a long professional association with childhood friend Lenny Waronker. Waronker had been hired to produce acts which were all contracted to the Los Angeles independent label Autumn Records, and he in turn brought in Newman, Leon Russell and another friend, pianist/arranger Van Dyke Parks, to play on recording sessions.

His 1968 debut album, “Randy Newman,” was a critical success but never dented the Billboard 200 Albums chart. Many artists covered his songs and "I Think It's Going To Rain Today" became an early standard.

In 1970, Harry Nilsson recorded an entire album of Newman compositions called “Nilsson Sings Newman.” That album was a success, and it paved the way for Newman's 1970 release, “12 Songs,” a more stripped-down sound that showcased Newman's piano. Ry Cooder's slide guitar and contributions from Byrds members Gene Parsons and Clarence White helped to give the album a much rootsier feel. “12 Songs” was also critically acclaimed, but again found little commercial success, though Three Dog Night made a huge hit of his "Mama Told Me Not to Come."

The following year, “Randy Newman Live” cemented his cult following and became his first LP to appear in the Billboard 200 chart, at #191. Newman also made his first foray into music for films at this time, writing and performing the theme song "He Gives Us All His Love" for Norman Lear's 1971 film “Cold Turkey.”

1972's “Sail Away” reached #163 on Billboard, with the title track making its way into the repertoire of Ray Charles and Linda Ronstadt. "You Can Leave Your Hat On" enigmatically touches on what it is men find important in relationships, and was covered by Three Dog Night, then Joe Cocker, and later by Keb Mo, Etta James, Tom Jones and the Québécois singer Garou. The album also featured "Burn On," an ode to an infamous incident in which the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River literally caught fire.

His 1974 release “Good Old Boys” was a set of songs about the American South. "Rednecks" "Kingfish" and "Every Man a King" were notable tracks. An album that received lavish critical praise, “Good Old Boys” also became a commercial breakthrough for Newman, peaking at #36 and spending 21 weeks on the Billboard 200.

1977’s “Little Criminals” contained the surprise hit "Short People." The album proved Newman's most popular to date, reaching #9 on the US Billboard 200 chart. 1979's “Born Again” featured a song satirically mythologizing the Electric Light Orchestra (and their arranging style) entitled "The Story of a Rock and Roll Band."

He returned to film work with 1981's Ragtime, for which he was nominated for two Academy Awards.

His 1983 album “Trouble in Paradise” included the hit single "I Love L.A. ," a song that is played at home games for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Lakers.

In the years following Trouble in Paradise, Newman focused more on film work. Newman co-wrote the 1986 film “¡Three Amigos!” with Steve Martin and Lorne Michaels, wrote three songs for the film, and provided the voice for the singing bush. His orchestral film scores resemble the work of Elmer Bernstein (with whom he had worked on ¡Three Amigos!) and Maurice Jarre.

His 1988 album, “Land of Dreams” included one of his most well-known songs, "It's Money That Matters", and featured Newman's first stab at autobiography with "Dixie Flyer" and "Four Eyes", while 1999’s “Bad Love” included "I Miss You", a moving tribute to his ex-wife.

Newman has scored six Disney/Pixar feature films, “Toy Story,” “A Bug's Life,” “Toy Story 2,” and “Monsters, Inc.,” “Cars,” and “Toy Story 3.” He has earned at least one Academy Award nomination for each of the films he has scored for Pixar, winning the award for “Monsters, Inc.” and “Toy Story 3,” both times in the category of Best Original Song. Additional scores by Newman include “Avalon,” “Parenthood,” “James and the Giant Peach,” “Seabiscuit,” “Awakenings,” “The Paper,” “Overboard,” “Meet the Parents,” and its sequel, “Meet the Fockers.” His score for “Pleasantville” was an Academy Award nominee. One of Newman's most iconic and recognizable works is the central theme to “The Natural, “a dramatic and Oscar-nominated score.

Newman had the dubious distinction of receiving the most Oscar nominations (fifteen) without a single win. His losing streak was broken when he received the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2001, for the Monsters, Inc. song "If I Didn't Have You." In total, Newman has received twenty Oscar nominations with two wins, both for Best Original Song

Newman wrote the music for the Walt Disney movie “The Princess and the Frog,” for which he was accompanied by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The New Orleans setting of the film played to Newman's musical strengths, and his songs contained elements of Cajun music, zydeco, blues and Dixieland jazz. Two of the songs, "Almost There" and "Down in New Orleans", were nominated for Oscars.

In the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe of 2005, Newman's "Louisiana 1927" became an anthem and was played heavily on a wide range of American radio and television stations, in both Newman's 1974 original and Aaron Neville's cover version of the song. The song addresses the deceitful manner in which New Orleans's municipal government managed a flood in 1927. In a related performance, Newman contributed to the 2007 release of “Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino” contributing his version of Domino's "Blue Monday." Domino had been rescued from his New Orleans home after Hurricane Katrina, initially having been feared dead.

Besides writing songs for films, he also writes songs for television series such as the Emmy-Award winning current theme song of Monk, "It's a Jungle out There". Newman also composed the Emmy-Award winning song "When I'm Gone" for the final episode.

His studio album, 2008’s “Harps and Angels,” debuted on the UK Albums Chart at #46.

He has been awarded two Academy Awards, three Emmys, five Grammy Awards, and the Governor's Award from the Recording Academy. Newman was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2007, Newman was inducted as a Disney Legend.