People Used To Hate Randy Newman — Now He's Playing The Hollywood Bowl

Randy Newman tackles political issues on his newest album, including Vladimir Putin.

Randy Newman sat at the piano 50 years ago, played a New Orleans shuffle, and sang "Davy the Fat Boy, isn't he round?"

At the time, people found his satirical, often morbid lyrics offensive. He was more established as a songwriter for other artists like Judy Collins, who made a hit out of his song, "I Think It's Going To Rain Today." After Collins' rendition, artists lined up to record their own — but he wasn't a hit himself yet.

"I was more misunderstood in the past. Now people sort of get what I'm doing," Newman told us.

By 1977, his gravelly voice and sharp wit had found an audience with his first major hit: "Short People." He went on to achieve even greater notoriety for his film scores for Pixar movies Toy Story and A Bug's Life.

On Sunday, Newman's playing the Hollywood Bowl. It's no small feat — his cousin, David Newman, will be conducting the Hollywood Bowl orchestra as it plays music from Randy's 50 years as a songwriter. The set goes from his first album in 1968 up to his most recent, Dark Matter.

He won his seventh Grammy this year for a track off of Dark Matter called "Putin."

"I wanted to write a song about Putin because — this was before Trump — it was this shirt-off stuff. I just didn't understand," Newman said. "It's like he wanted to not only be absolute ruler, but he wanted to be Tom Cruise, like a matinee idol."

The new album doesn't shy away from politics. "The Great Debate" is a musical take on the country's idealogical divisions, playing out like an elaborate stage musical.

"It's a debate between faith and science," Newman said. "And the moderator is clearly inclined to the faith side of it. And dismissive of the scientific side of it. Much like our leader now. The thing about it is that faith has got all the fun stuff. They've got phenomenal music from Bach on. They've got art, everything. And science has the facts. Tiresomely tugging on your coat, telling you what really is."

While he still does hard-hitting satire, he's also embraced his work in animation — and learned from it.

"With animation, there's more movement. Not only is there more movement, but you have to play it," Newman said. "You don't have to do it all the time, but if someone falls, you go badum-dadum. And if Tom Hanks in a live action thing falls, you don't go badum-dadum. It's just a different kind of thing. It plays the action more literally."

You can see more of what he's learned this past 50 years this Sunday at the Hollywood Bowl.


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