“See, if I were to write Billy Joel’s ‘Just The Way You Are,’ I’d wreck it,” he said, explaining why his instincts run contrary to pop music. “I’d have written ‘I love you just the way you are, you stupid little bitch.’ Which really isn’t as good.”
Of course, he’s joking. But he’s also serious. And it’s that’s precise blend of humor and gravity that has distinguished the songs of Randy Newman from the start. He’s both one of the most hilarious and most serious of all songwriters. A compositional genius, he’s the only great American songwriter to become an accomplished film composer (with some 26 films to date, each with a fully orchestral score he wrote and conducted himself). But he’s also a lyrical genius who has done more than created a style; he’s created his own school of songwriting.
Newman’s songs use the novelistic technique of the untrustworthy narrator, a sometimes funny, often dark, always effective way of shaping a song.
Asked why he chose this indirect method of songwriting, he said: “Maybe it’s a psychological defect. I don’t want to stand up ...