US Politics

ay morning coming down // (Scott Johnson).

Singer/songwriter/composer Randy Newman celebrates his seventy-ninth birthday tomorrow. I can only tell you that he has written some my favorite songs about love and loss. They have attracted many talented interpreters. I will take the songs of feeling, and leave the political satire to the past. I’d like to look back at a small portion of his work today.

On the Jerry Butler single (1964), we first heard “I don’t want to hear it anymore”. Newman would have turned 20 or 21 in 1964 when he composed this upbeat song about betrayal, loss, and remorse. Butler conveys the pain.

It’s a great song, and I’d love to hear it again. It was covered by Dusty Springfield in Memphis (1969) a few years later. Shelby Lynne recorded the amazing Just A Little Lovin‘ (2008) in tribute to Springfield. She also covered “I Don’t Want To Hear it Anymore.”

I first saw Randy Newman, the songwriter of “It’s Going to Rain Today”, on Judy Collins’s in My Life (1966). It’s been covered many times. This song made me want to hear more from Newman, even though he was still coming into his own.

“Guilty,” I believe, is a worthy descendant from Johnny Mercer’s “One For My Baby” (and One More For the Road). Newman comes from a distinguished musical background and must have been soaked in the great American songbook. Bonnie Raitt captures the feeling in a song about loss and desolation. “Guilty” was her first single from her album Takin’ My Time (1973). This beautiful song is beautifully interpreted. It is why I wanted to pay attention to Newman today.

Newman found the intersection of desire and arson in “Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield”. Even if the lyrics are not well-written, Etta Jam provides the necessary support with Lowell George on guitar. This is from James’a album Get a Little Closer (1974).

“You Can Leave Your Hat On” – a humorous song about desire. Joe Cocker found it in Newman’s sail Away (1972).

Harry Nilsson loved Newman’s work. He recorded an entire album of Newman songs on Nilsson sings Newman (1970), with Newman backing him on piano. From that set is “I’ll be Home”. It’s a love song that is unironic.

Newman recorded “Louisiana 1927”, on Good Old Boys (1974). It’s a beautiful song, and Marcia Ball performed an inspired rendition of it on Let me Play with Your Poodle (1997).

“Baltimore” strikes me as a dark and powerful song. In the video below, El Cuero, a Norwegian band, performs it live with Elvira Nikolaisen (Norwegian singer/songwriter). The song first appeared on Newman’s Little Criminals (1977).

Newman recorded “Mama Told Me Not To Come”, for 12 Song (1970). It’s not shocking anymore, but it’s still an excellent song.

What forgiveness after Three Dog Night? It might be difficult to hear the song again with fresh ears. The Stereophonics and Tom Jones version below is a continuation of Three Dog Night. However, the video provides some comic relief.

Newman also included “Losing You” on Harps and Angels (2008). Before performing the song in this video, he talked about the source. Below is Jamie Cullum, an English singer/songwriter. Mama didn’t tell me not to come for that. This is why we came.

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