Randy Newman was amongst a wave of singer songwriters coming of age in the early 70s but unlike most of his peers, Newman brought influences from New Orleans R&B and pop music to his work. Alternating between cinematic pop and rolling R&B, Newman built a musical landscape filled with misfits, outcasts, charlatans, and con men.
Critically acclaimed records in the 70s brought scant sales, until Newman had a surprise hit with 1978’s Short People and then again with his parody of LA in 1980, I Love LA. Many of his songs from these early albums went on to be big hits for other artists, and in many cases were recorded by others prior to Newmans release of his own albums.
Songwriting paid the bills. Danny Hutton from Three Dog Night which had a number one hit with Newmans’ Mama Told Me Not to Come recalls receiving an unprompted call from Newman who told him “Thanks, man – you just paid for my kid’s college”.
Randy Newman grew up in a musical family. Living in New Orleans until he was eleven, the family moved to LA where he was closer to his three uncles who were all Hollywood film score composers along with four cousins who did the same. Newman got his first songwriting credit at seventeen, and was well established in that profession before recording his first album.
Successful cinematic music seems to run in the family. Randy Newman, along with his uncles and cousins, have a quirky record. His family is the most Academy Award nominated extended family with a total of Ninety-two nominations. Newman himself has won two Academy Awards to go with his three Emmys and seven Grammys and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
While the majority of his recent work has gone into movie soundtracks, Newman released Dark Matter in 2017, his first album of new material in nine years.