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I'm dreaming of a white president.
September 18, 2012 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Randy Newman released a new song today. Though he's best known for his film scores these days, he's done social commentary through song for decades. He's sung about the foreign policy, immigration, the environment, race, history, and predjudice. This isn't his first song about the president.
posted by fzx101 (62 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
For the love of God, let me correct my damn spelling mistakes!
posted by fzx101 at 6:59 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


This song is AWESOME. I totally get it. Move over, "Short People", I think we have a new offensive song to get America's panties wadded up in a bunch over.
posted by Renoroc at 7:04 PM on September 18, 2012


You know, the knock on Randy Newman is oh please, dude does one thing.

But he does it well. He does it well.
posted by Miko at 7:06 PM on September 18, 2012


The man is walking proof that there are so so very many people who wouldn't recognize irony if it bit 'em on the ass.
posted by sendai sleep master at 7:09 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah, Randy Newman. You're such a genius who produces such a mixed bag of product. I love what you do even if I don't always love what you do. Keep doing it, please.
posted by hippybear at 7:11 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Holy shit. Wow.
posted by zarq at 7:16 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ankle biters take heart. Satire lives.

Viva Randy!
posted by mule98J at 7:16 PM on September 18, 2012


I was a young man when I bought Sail Away. That was 1972. Randy's been doing this a long time. He's still a master.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:17 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just for the record, *I* don't know him for his film scores. He also sang "It's Money That I Love" and "I Love L.A." which were favorites of mine as a kid.
posted by phaedon at 7:20 PM on September 18, 2012


I have loved Randy Newman ever since my dad introduced me to the album "Sail Away" after Toy Story came out. It delighted my little middle-school heart that a guy who was known for feel-good Disney schlock enjoyed writing wickedly subversive and cynical songs in the same style as feel-good Disney schlock.
posted by schroedinger at 7:34 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I need to give The Good Old Boys a full re-listen. The shout-outs to Huey Long alone are an interesting thing in the midst of the current state of affairs.

Plus that album also has the achingly lovely Louisiana 1927 and the oddball Naked Man to give you some breaks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, that "left foot, right foot" song from Family Guy randomly came into my head earlier today and now there's a Randy Newman post on the blue. IMO, Randy is truly an American treasure.
posted by MattMangels at 7:45 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


PREDICTION: The Romney campaign will use this song in an advertisement. Won't be the dumbest thing they've done.
posted by ColdChef at 7:48 PM on September 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


Okay, now the election's really over.
posted by swift at 7:48 PM on September 18, 2012


I actually laughed out loud at his lack of self-awareness, as exhibited in this quote:
"No European country would have elected a black man," he said. "I can't believe it happened. I think it's fantastic, like a step on the moon."
Newman can call it satire, but this song would be more accurately described as a type of projection.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:55 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd sure hate to be that William Howard Taft guy right about now.
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 7:55 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay, now the election's really over.

Yes. Because if there's one thing Conservatives understand, it's irony.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:57 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


(There isn't.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:59 PM on September 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


The real story here is that a prequel is being made to Monsters Inc.

Huh.
posted by item at 8:08 PM on September 18, 2012


I actually laughed out loud at his lack of self-awareness, as exhibited in this quote:

"No European country would have elected a black man," he said. "I can't believe it happened. I think it's fantastic, like a step on the moon."

Newman can call it satire, but this song would be more accurately described as a type of projection.


I don't understand. Are you saying he's some kind of suppressed racist? I think that's exactly what he meant. The election of a non-white president wasn't a huge deal?
posted by cmoj at 8:10 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The real story travesty here is that a prequel is being made to Monsters Inc.

It's going to be set in college. With all the same characters. Because, you know, it's oh so common for everyone who goes to college together to end up working together later.

Aside from the Toy Story series, I'm convinced that Pixar's current obsession with sequels and prequels to even its weakest films (Cars? SERIOUSLY?) is evidence of their creative bankruptcy.

Finding Nemo 2 is in production. Yes, that's right.

Let's just hope that the rumors of a Toy Story 4 never come to fruition. They wrapped up that series with an elegance seldom seen in trilogy film series.
posted by hippybear at 8:14 PM on September 18, 2012


What I mean is that Newman leaves himself vulnerable to a song satirizing him called "I'm dreaming of a black president."
posted by BobbyVan at 8:27 PM on September 18, 2012


This is just like when Eminem's "Mosh" got John Kerry elected!
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:28 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember this performance being kind of out of place* for a tech event.

I loved it.

----
*Ok, way out of place.
posted by mazola at 8:33 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honest question that I said somewhere else snarkily that then turned into an honest question I wanted an answer to: does Randy Newman do any satire that isn't "I'm singing about this thing that I'm not in favor of as if I'm in favor of it"?

Maybe I've just heard all the wrong Newman songs. I'd just like something a bit more sly. I promise I'm not trying to threadshit here because I really would be interested in seeing the same Randy that so many others see.

Promise.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:37 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe I've just heard all the wrong Newman songs. I'd just like something a bit more sly.

While he didn't sing much on the album, I highly recommend checking out Randy Newman's Faust. It's a rather interesting mix of satire and earnest, and features James Taylor singing the role of God, Don Henley as Faust, and Linda Rondstadt and Bonnie Raitt as Margaret and Martha. You might find some of his more sly writing happening there.
posted by hippybear at 8:49 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


In addition to "Naked Man," linked above, check out Mama Told Me Not To Come (yes, I know you think Three Dog Night did it, but he wrote it) or You Can Leave Your Hat On (ditto).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:02 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


....About "Leave Your Hat On" - the first Youtube comment has it dead-on: "This song gets both creepier and better as Randy gets older."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:03 PM on September 18, 2012


Slate: You’ve said that one thing that inspired you to write this song is the thought that, “there are a lot of people who don’t want a black person in the White House and they want him out.” To put it bluntly, how do you know?

I wish he'd responded, "To put it bluntly, how do you not know?"
posted by blucevalo at 9:07 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know you think Three Dog Night did it, but he wrote it

I did not know that!!
posted by sweetkid at 9:23 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


And never forget, in 1991 Randy Newman won an Emmy for his work on Cop Rock!

(Actually, the music on Cop Rock was more or less quite good. It was just everything else that was... er... um... problematic.)
posted by hippybear at 9:31 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, some of his stuff is schlocky. But some of it's genuine and earnest, which I enjoy whenever I manage to strangle my shriveled, cynical heart long enough to listen with a sincere ear. This wasn't terribly clever, but it's good to hear the issue of racism in this election not getting lost in the other pressing issues of the day.

Also: any excuse to link to Nina Simone's awesome cover of the Randy Newman song I Think It's Going to Rain Today, which has got to be in the top 10 covers of all time. Shows that sometimes, the cause of schlock isn't the song but the singer, because FSM knows there are a lot of horrendous covers of this same song.
posted by smirkette at 9:38 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Senor Cardgage: "does Randy Newman do any satire that isn't "I'm singing about this thing that I'm not in favor of as if I'm in favor of it"?"

Please tell me you're not implying that Randy Newman might not really love ELO.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:38 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I Love LA is kinda odd in the fact that he doesn't ever give it away does he? I think he may actually love LA, and is only later engaging In a CYA maneuver saying he does not in fact love LA.

Unless there is something I have missed since I don't have Newmans intimate knowlege of LA( which itself is a bit suspicious, how does he know the names of so many parts of LA) Maybe he pulled something akin to writing a song about loving NYC and citing Staten Island as a key reason.

I guess I am saying I Love LA seems too subtle, I think he may indeed love LA.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:53 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Whenever I/we get an earworm, the song my wife and I belt out to eradicate it is Newman's Political Science, this is known as "Going Code Newman!"

And oh, yeah, for the record I love Randy Newman, I have every since way back when I heard Harry Nilsson cover a bunch of his songs (which includes this great song)... also fin fact the orchastra parts in Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is" was written adn directed by Newman.
posted by edgeways at 9:54 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always thought Baltimore has some of the saddest feelings I've ever heard. I'm not sure there's any satire there. Also, Beehive State has some really conflicting sadness beneath the biting satire.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 10:20 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, Louisiana 1927.
posted by Jeff_Larson at 10:38 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I remember this performance being kind of out of place* for a tech event.


I was there & I loved it. Several people walked out, though.
posted by mike3k at 10:50 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Dayton Ohio 1903 is one of my favourite songs and it is pretty sweet. I'll be Home got me through some tough times,too. I saw him on the Little Criminals tour in 1977 and he was great. One of my memorable concerts.
posted by Isadorady at 11:28 PM on September 18, 2012


I Love LA is kinda odd in the fact that he doesn't ever give it away does he?

I've always wondered that myself. The Lakers use "I Love LA", unironically, as their theme song, but I was never sure if this was a "Born in the USA" situation of the song being grossly misinterpreted or if it really is the love letter to the city it appears to be.

Outside of one line about a bum being down on his knees, Newman never really tips his hat, unless there is some other subtlety I'm missing (very possible).
posted by The Gooch at 11:38 PM on September 18, 2012


I watched the video like 50 times trying to dig out any clues. I kinda figured the bum was on his knees because he was so happy to be in L.A. as opposed to NY or Chicago, which as noted in the song are pretty cold. Of course the video adds another layer not in the song, the bum is on his knees hugging a woman in a bikini.

According to Wikipedia the names of the streets mentioned in the song are streets that are known to go through both very wealthy and very poor neighborhoods.

Also according to wikipedia, Newman really does like LA and says "There's some kind of ignorance L.A. has that I'm proud of." I suppose he is ambivelent and acknowleges the good and the bad, even though the good is only possible by sublimating the bad.

LA does seem to be the least self conscious city, it always seems unashamed of it's own nature.

Aside from the good bit of noire, and Sunset Boulevard. All of LA's self-examination came after the song. Rodney King, Gangster Rap, City Of Quartz, Mulholland Drive all happened after the song, I guess Newman always knew there were some hidden depths to the city.

Not like I know shit about LA.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:02 AM on September 19, 2012


I remember seeing The Wolfgang Press in around 1992 or so. The lead singer went on a ten minute tirade about how "Americans neglect to properly recognize their greatest songwriter of all time: Randy Newman". We laughed, but we kinda understood what he meant.
posted by readyfreddy at 12:53 AM on September 19, 2012


God I love Randy Newman.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:15 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, Louisiana 1927

Astonishing that a song written in 1974 about the events of nearly fifty years before that should be bang up to date in 2005.
posted by Grangousier at 6:21 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, yes, Newman is a genius - for example the way that he forces the listener to fill in the blanks of In Germany Before the War by literally leaving those parts out of the song so that only a sublime string arrangement and a terrible sense of dread remain.
posted by Grangousier at 6:25 AM on September 19, 2012


OK, just listened to it, and being a Brit I will express no view on the politics, but IMHO the song has a weak ending, the repeated "whiter than this?" at the end sounded really lame and it was only when I looked up at the screen and rewound that I saw the video to go with it. But he is a genius, although for me Nilsson's interpretations of his songs were definitive, (speaking of which "Nilsson sings Lehrer" would have been an album to cherish).
posted by epo at 7:04 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd sure hate to be that William Howard Taft guy right about now.

Wooja like ta come over fr tea'
Witha Missus 'n' me
'S a real nice way to spendda day
In Dayton, Ohia
Onna lazy Sunday afternoon in nineteen oh three
Real nice way to spendda day
In Dayton, Ohia
On a lazy Sunday afternoon in nineteen
Hundred and three

Newman -- born in L.A. with roots in LA -- by hook or crook even gets the regional pronunciations correct*, unlike Nilsson et al.

The local progressive rock station in Dayton used a bit of Newman's version as part of their station IDs for a while in the early 1970s.

*In Day'n, it's "Ohia". Over in Nerk and Portsmith, it's "Ahia". And as of 1980 or so, it's "Sundy" (the day after Sairdy, of course).
posted by Herodios at 7:04 AM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


All of LA's self-examination came after the song.

Wednesday I watched the riots, saw the cops out on the street
Watched 'em throwin' rocks n stuff an' chokin in the heat
Watched while everybody on your street would take a turn
To stomp and smash and crash and bash and slash and bust and burn . . .

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear . . .
 
posted by Herodios at 7:09 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Randy Newman's Big Hat, No Cattle has always been about a certain US President in my mind:

Since I was a child I've tried to be what I'm not
I've lied and I've enjoyed it all my life
I lied to my dear mother, to my sisters and my brother
And now I'm lying to my children and my wife.

Big Hat, no cattle
Big head, no brain
Big snake, no rattle
I forever remain
Big hat, no cattle
I knew from the start
Big boat, no paddle
Big belly, no heart.

Can't remember why I do it,
Oh, maybe I can.
An honest man these days is hard to find.
I only know we're living in an unforgiving land.
And a little lie can buy some real big piece of mind.

Oftimes I wondered what might I have become,
Had I but buckled down and really tried.
But when it came down to the wire, I called my family to my side
Stood up straight, threw my head back and I lied, lied, lied.
posted by Killick at 7:11 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I listened to it. Kind of a slog. I have more fun listening to Cartman's version.
posted by dgaicun at 7:14 AM on September 19, 2012


Honest question that I said somewhere else snarkily that then turned into an honest question I wanted an answer to: does Randy Newman do any satire that isn't "I'm singing about this thing that I'm not in favor of as if I'm in favor of it"?

Maybe I've just heard all the wrong Newman songs. I'd just like something a bit more sly.


Sail Away, a devastatingly great song, isn't exactly like that. It's a song written from a slaver's point of view. It's not supportive, though.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:14 AM on September 19, 2012


Political Science, too.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:18 AM on September 19, 2012


I think about him as a fiction or prose writer or maybe like an opera guy? He writes characters, and those characters sing songs from their own perspectives. Some of the characters exist in the same universe, like Good Old Boys, and some of them are one-offs. "A Wedding in Cherokee County" always knocks me off my feet, as does "Marie" and "Guilty," although I think "Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father" might be my favorite.

I even think of "You Can Leave Your Hat On" as a character piece, sung by a guy who isn't too bright, kind of dumbstruck with lust and genuine attraction. That's why I like Newman's recording of it more than the covers. He performs it in the guileless spirit it deserves, not as the showpiece it later became.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:30 AM on September 19, 2012


Hmm. Some of the later verses in "Leave your Hat On" seem to imply that the guy is at least smart enough to know that people don't think what he's doing with the girl in question is all that kosher ("Suspicious minds a'talkin'/Tryin' to tear us apart/They don't believe in this love of mine/They don't know what love is...") There's no real reason given as to what is so scandalous about him and his girl, but he knows it ain't right. Someone who isn't bright wouldn't quite get that, I don't think...

Damn. We're able to do a discussion about the subtleties of the lyrics of a song based on one stanza, and that is a sign that the guy is a damn good writer.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:53 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


12 songs is still in permanent rotation around here. Uncle Bob's Midnight Blues is the perfect depiction of a mind that's been up on speed or coke for 12 hours straight. Rambling, disjointed, paranoid. "Gonna buy me a goat & tie him up in my front yard for all my friends to see. Ain't nobody gonna look in my window & laugh at me."
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:35 AM on September 19, 2012


I love the way he does this tune with just the piano, just like on my all-time favorite Newman recording, "Live at the Bitter End", recorded back in 1970. I still have a promotional vinyl copy from those days that was given to me by a DJ friend at the time. Funny, I've always thought of it as Randy Newman's "White Album", because of the typed text on white paper cover.

Those of you who know him from his film scores might be interested to know the man comes from a family that's thick with film composers (uncles Lionel, Alfred, and Emil; cousins Thomas, David, and Joey).
posted by TwoToneRow at 11:27 AM on September 19, 2012


hippybear: The real story travesty here is that a prequel is being made to Monsters Inc.

It's going to be set in college. With all the same characters. Because, you know, it's oh so common for everyone who goes to college together to end up working together later.
You do realize it's a comedy animation, right? About monsters?
posted by IAmBroom at 12:55 PM on September 19, 2012


I grew up listening to Randy Newman, because my dad has always loved his music. Which means that for the first 12 years of my life, I took everything Randy Newman said literally. Not exactly as a reliable narrator, maybe, but as a reporter from the grown-up world I was unfamiliar with. Which means that for 12 years I thought the song "Short People" was really about people who were short, and "Burn On" was really a love song--the sort that you'd croon to the river as you went by--because that's what my father did every time we came across the Cuyahoga River. I also could never figure out what actual political science had to do with the song, "Political Science," because his reasoning for why America should drop bombs on everyone seemed pretty far removed from the pictures of politicians in neckties that I saw in the papers.
posted by colfax at 1:14 PM on September 19, 2012


Always been partial to God's Song. It's a pretty good example of how multilayered his songwriting can be- God's being pretty straightforwardly sarcastic, but when he says "that's why I love mankind," he seems to mean it. You could take it as straight-up blasphemous, but also as a sorta classically-jewish grappling with the question of, if there's a God in heaven, what is he *thinkiing*?
n.b. the youtube comments for this one are... interesting.
posted by hap_hazard at 2:05 PM on September 19, 2012


Senor Cardgage: "does Randy Newman do any satire that isn't "I'm singing about this thing that I'm not in favor of as if I'm in favor of it"?"

Please tell me you're not implying that Randy Newman might not really love ELO.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 9:38 PM on September 18 [1 favorite]

- - -
Apparently he sold Jeff Lynne that it was sincere. (sheesh)
posted by spock at 8:28 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jeff_Nelson, it is eerie how much Randy resembles John Lennon in the still photo that's used in that Beehive State video.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:39 PM on September 19, 2012


No kidding, right?
posted by Jeff_Larson at 5:33 AM on September 20, 2012


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