The legend sings on: Randy Newman brings his music back to Beaver Creek
41 Randy Newman Songs you should listen to before you die
“Christmas In Cape Town”
“Falling In Love”
“God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)”
“Half a Man”
“Have You Seen My Baby”
“How Great Our Lord”
“I Love L.A.”
“I Miss You”
“I Think It’s Going To Rain Today”
“I Want You To Hurt Like I Do”
“In Germany Before the War”
“It’s Money That I Love”
“Love Story (You and Me)”
“Mama Told Me Not to Come”
“My Life Is Good”
“Old Kentucky Home”
“Real Emotional Girl”
“Rider in the Rain”
“Song For The Dead”
“Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father”
“The Girls In My Life (Part I)”
“They Just Got Married”
“You Can Leave Your Hat On”
NOTE: Randy Newman has cancelled this show since he has temporarily lost his voice.
BEAVER CREEK — Randy Newman is an American treasure.
His music has been sung by Judy Collins, Bobby Darin, Rick Nelson, Nina Simone, Audra McDonald, Joe Cocker, Three Dog Night … and you if the truth be told, and in Randy Newman’s songs it usually is.
This man made Faust funny.
Twenty Oscar nominations and a couple wins, a half dozen Grammy Awards, a boatload of Emmy Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Through it all he’s sensitive, sensible and self-deprecating.
“Every time it’s a real kick. Even if you say you don’t think it’s a big deal, it sucks you in and people are really interested in it for … a day and a half,” he said laughing.
There he is in Disney’s “Toy Story” franchise, playing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and “We Belong Together,” songs that have become staples in his intimate live shows, like the one on Thursday at Beaver Creek’s Vilar Performing Arts Center.
He sits down with the movie’s producers and they decide what they want the song to be about. “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” is obviously about friendship.
“They don’t write themselves, but if they give me enough adjectives it’ll get me started,” he said.
Randy Newman songs are like literature … OK, some are literature in that they’re timeless. Take “Sail Away,” the only song about the early American slave trade. Or his classic “Political Science,” encouraging us “to drop the big one now.”
Or his conversational number, “A Few Words In Defense of Our Country.” Newman developed it during a summer 2006 tour of Europe, then slipped into his stateside shows. Penetrating and funny lyrics are laid over a lilting country waltz as Newman presents a caustic view of the state of our nation, ostensibly as a defense against foreign criticism.
It’s so good The New York Times printed the lyrics on its Op-Ed page. You’re gonna want to rewind the verse about the Supreme Court that the Times censored.
Even though he wrote it eight years ago, it still goes straight to our nation’s political heart.
“I don’t like writing songs that are right on the nose, Tom Lehrer-like songs, commenting on what’s happening in the moment,” Newman said. “I wanted to say something, so I did.”
The family business
Newman was born Nov. 28, 1943 to a renowned musical family, and spent most of his formative years in New Orleans. He was a songwriter by 17, and in 1968 he debuted with the self-titled album “Randy Newman.”
Three of his uncles had been successful Hollywood composers, and the influence shows in his compositions.
“I grew up with maybe an inordinate love of the orchestral sound,” Newman said. “When I was five years old, I was 50 feet away from the greatest musicians in the world, the studio guys. Guys I learned later were known worldwide. I had and still have enormous respect for my Uncle Alfred and the work he did. I’m not as good as he is with my film music — but no one else is either, so that’s not something I have to worry about.”
Newman’s Top 40 success came with the most unlikely track, “Short People,” from the 1977 “Little Criminals.” Not everyone got the joke. The Maryland legislature tried to make it a crime to play “Short People” on the radio.
About funny Faust
It was 1993 when Newman’s “Faust” was staged as a musical. All creativity begins with inspiration, so if you’re going to borrow something, borrow something good. Newman borrowed elements borrowing elements from the version by Goethe, as well as Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” He updated it for a modern day audience and infused it with his own humorous cynicism.
In Newman’s retelling, God and the Devil fight for the soul of Henry Faust, a student at the University of Notre Dame. James Taylor is God, backed by a gospel choir.
Newman smiles as he points out that he played the Devil.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.