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Sunday Song Lyric:
Noted songwriter Randy Newman held the record for the most consecutive Academy Award nominations without winning an Oscar — fifteen. Newman's drought ended in 2001, when he won the Oscar for best song for "If I Didn't Have You" from Monster's Inc.

Newman is up for another best song Oscar tonight, and it's my unprofessional, uninformed opinion is that he has a good shot. One would think a song from Dream Girls would win, but that movie's votes could be diluted among its three separate best song nominations. Melissa Etheridge was nominated as well for her song in An Inconvenient Truth, but I would think Newman's song has the edge.

Newman's nomination is for "Our Town", sung by James Taylor in Cars. It's a fairly traditional lament for the way things used to be in small town America that fits the movie well. Here's a taste of the lyrics:

Long ago, but not so very long ago
The world was different, oh yes it was
You settled down and you built a town and made it live
And you watched it grow
It was your town

Time goes by, and time brings changes, and you change, too
Nothing comes that you can't handle, so on you go
You never see it coming, when the world caves in on you
On your town
There's nothing you can do

Main street isn't main street anymore
Lights don't shine as brightly as they shone before
To tell the truth, lights don't shine at all
In our town
The full lyrics are available here.

Newman is known for writing songs in character. His lyrics are sometimes pointed (particularly when he's not writing for children's films), but they don't always reflect his own views, political or otherwise. That said, most think Newman's recent song, "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country," represents his views about the United States today. It was published as an op-ed in the New York Times in January, and is highlighted on RandyNewman.com.

Just a few words in defense of our country
Whose time at the top
Could be coming to an end
Now we don't want their love
And respect at this point is pretty much out of the question
But in times like these
We sure could use a friend.
Toby:
I always felt his politics was best summed up in "Political Science (Let's Drop the Big One)" Not that is was a proposal, but it had some of the same memes as A Few Words, with a delightfull acknowledgement of the banal flaws of America... Perfect song for the end of the Carter Era...

Tried to sing it once in public with a few others, but singing in minor chords is beyond most amateur groups ability...

No one likes us-I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money-but are they grateful?
No, they're spiteful and they're hateful
They don't respect us-so let's surprise them
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them

Asia's crowded and Europe's too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada's too cold
And South America stole our name
Let's drop the big one
There'll be no one left to blame us

We'll save Australia
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo
We'll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin', too

Boom goes London and boom Paree
More room for you and more room for me
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town
Oh, how peaceful it will be
We'll set everybody free
You'll wear a Japanese kimono
And there'll be Italian shoes for me

They all hate us anyhow
So let's drop the big one now
Let's drop the big one now
2.25.2007 12:46pm
glangston (mail):
Do we have Kim Jong-il's version of "Let's Drop the Big One"

If Randy is right and the US is in the down slope of power and influence it might be important for any country to have a friend.
2.25.2007 1:52pm
msmith (mail):
Reminds me a little of the 1973 commentary by Canadian broadcaster Gordon Sinclair that was bandied around on the blogs and in some of the press after 9-11. Typical of the sentiment was that America is especially altruistic compared to other nations and peoples.

...Can you name to me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble? I don't think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake.

Our neighbours have faced it alone and I am one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their noses at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles....


Ironic in that NATO for the first time ever had invoked the mutual self-defense provision of the treaty shortly after 9-11 and the US probably had more world sympathy and offers of assistance than in any time in its history.

Then, of course, the American government (and some of its people) proceeded to spare no effort in insulting just about every foreign government in the world, including the Canadians, once the government decided to invade Iraq.

Now, again, we see the same complaints from the usual suspects that America stands bravely alone, having worked itself into another quagmire of its own making, solely due to America's (the Bush administration's?) unmatched altruism.

Of course a generation from now when Iraq seems as insignificant as the once all-important threat from Asian communists, Mr. Sinclair's piece on "America Stands Alone" will be revived again. Which nation will be the lucky beneficiary of our altruism a generation from now? Who knows.

America the country remains as great as it ever was, even with the flaws. Too bad it doesn't currently have a government to match.
2.25.2007 2:11pm
John M. Perkins (mail):
I saw Newman around 1978. Ignoring that his opening act [Mac McAnally] stole the show, the highlight [pun intended] was the red spotlight that tracked the stage during "Burn On, Big River."

"Our Town" is good.
"I Need to Wake Up" is much better.
The not nominated songs from Idlewild blow the field away.
2.25.2007 2:46pm
Justin Levine:
Noted songwriter Randy Newman held the record for the most consecutive Academy Award nominations without winning an Oscar — fifteen.

Sorry. But this statement is wrong on all counts. Newman's nominations were not consecutive. Nor does he even hold the record for most consecutive losses. That indignity goes to sound mixer Kevin O'Connell who has been nominated 18 times without ever winning. He has his 19th nomination tonight for "Apacolypto". We will soon find out if he extends the losing streak.
2.25.2007 4:42pm
Justin Levine:
Actually, at the time when Newman won the Oscar - he may have held the record at that particular time, since I don't think O'Connell was quite up to 15 losses at that point (in 2001). In terms of most losses, Newman may have once held the record at one time. So I guess your statement is techinally correct after all. But it should still be noted that his record of 15 losses has since been eclipsed.
2.25.2007 4:48pm
Hattio (mail):
The Duhks, a Canadian eclectic folkish band covered Let's Drop the Big One in a recent show in Anchorage (and I assume everywhere else on the tour). It was very well received.
2.25.2007 6:28pm
Tareeq (www):
Toby, I'm a big Newman fan, but to be honest I think "Political Science" is one of his dumbest songs (as catchy as it is), because it's one of the few in which Newman succumbs to the belief that Americans are as dumb as some Europeans think we are.

Newman took a cheap shot. At least in the 70s, Newman was too smart to take many cheap shots. He wrote about the worst characters with a certain affection.

What's dismaying is that the song is packaged with the second best song Newman will ever write, "Sail Away." (The best is "Davey the Fat Boy.")

Newman is at his best when writing about the intimate lives of normal people and weirdos. I highly recommend, if you haven't heard it, his brilliant Twelve Songs, in which he examines the lives of obscene callers, guys who are cuckolded by milkmen, gas station attendants in love, guys whose true loves are sucked up by beach-cleaning machines, and his Uncle Bob. Newman chronicles all of these losers and freaks with love. Even at his most bitter Newman is at his best, as in "Rednecks" and "Louisiana 1923," when he writes with understanding.

Twelve Songs is in a league of its own. Even Dylan never released an album that hit its targets so accurately.
2.25.2007 6:36pm
Patrick S. O'Donnell (mail):
I trust everyone realizes Newman is a master of satire (as in Political Science above). To appreciate the depth and political orientation of this satire one might pay close attention to the songs on the 'Sail Away' album (1972). And thus I think his (at least earlier) songs do reveal his political views: it's just that those views are not transparent and one needs to read, as it were, between the lines.
2.25.2007 6:39pm
jdd6y:
and here I thought Randy Newman was all about the Showtime Laker's victory song...
2.26.2007 2:48am
Toby:
Tareeq

So you think Newman *liked* short people?

I missed 12 songs. I'll check it out. THanks
2.26.2007 1:02pm
Al (mail):
>>Ironic in that NATO for the first time ever had invoked the mutual self-defense provision of the treaty shortly after 9-11 and the US probably had more world sympathy and offers of assistance than in any time in its history.

Words without action is very easy. Since most NATO countries have not lived up to their promises in Afghanistan, this is probably a bad example for you to cite.

>>Then, of course, the American government (and some of its people) proceeded to spare no effort in insulting just about every foreign government in the world, including the Canadians, once the government decided to invade Iraq.

"to spare no effort in insulting just about every foreign government in the world"? That is quite the hyperbole you have going there. And how dare we question the noble and selfless motives of France, Germany, Russia, and China vis-a-vis Iraq??

>>Of course a generation from now when Iraq seems as insignificant as the once all-important threat from Asian communists, Mr. Sinclair's piece on "America Stands Alone" will be revived again. Which nation will be the lucky beneficiary of our altruism a generation from now? Who knows.

Millions of Cambodians, Vietnamese, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese and others might disagree with you about the "insignificance" of the threat from Asian communists. I guess the killing fields, the reeducation camps, the boat people, the North Korean gulag and famines, and the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution in China must have simply been minor, isolated events.
2.26.2007 1:10pm