Day 285: Randy Newman – Good Old Boys

10 Dec

Back On My Feet Again

And the Suggestion Train will keep on chugging, straight into The United States’ worse half, for Randy Newman’s Good Old Boys.

Seconds into this record, I knew that I recognized that voice.  It had to be the dude who wrote “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” for Toy Story, it just had to be.  A few more seconds in, and I realized that it was also the guy behind “It’s A Jungle Out There,” the Monk theme song. Naturally, I was a little confused.  Why is the creator of such wholesome and family-friendly songs from my childhood singing about rednecks in a Jeff Foxworthy-after-a-little-too-much-whiskey way, full of racism and hatred?

Newman’s ironic and satirical style took about half of a song for me to get used to. Once I realized that “Rednecks” is in fact a criticism of the lifestyle that at first appears to be celebrated, I quickly fell in love with this record.

While the South-loathing schtick isn’t prominent on every song—quite a few tracks seem to be tributes—there’s still plenty to enjoy for the average northerner.  Newman’s got a cool voice; he always has.  God knows how many times I watched Toy Story as a little kid, so I might even owe him for fostering my love of unconventional voices early on.  Newman’s vocals and stories are the clear centerpieces of this record, but the instrumentation should be acknowledged as well.  Thankfully, he stays close to a piano throughout, and this sounds little like the country record that it kind of is.

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One Response to “Day 285: Randy Newman – Good Old Boys”

  1. Dave "Mighty Sword" Chops December 11, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Mr. Ear: I am guessing that you are listening to this without access to the liner notes from the 2003 Rhino re-issue so here is some interesting Good Old Boys trivia:1) Marie, Rollin`, Birmingham, Mr. President and Rednecks were all written for the same character; 2) Rednecks was inspired by an appearance by redneck Georgia governor Lester Maddox on PBS’s The Dick Cavet show. Randy explains: “They sat Maddox next to Jim Brown, the old Cleveland Browns fullback and a tough guy. And they were rude to Maddox. They didn’t let him say anything. You know he was a racist and a bad guy but they never quite let him get there. I’ve always been able to put myself in the shoes of someone else- it’s what I most often do. And I thought, if I were any kind of resident of Georgia, I’d be angry at these people, this New York audience and the New York TV commentator. As if they were treating black people so much better, you know. There wasn’t that sort of moral superiority. The difference was, down South racism was law, up North it was just de facto. So that’s what I wrote about.”

    Randy Newman has built up a considerable retirement fund on his film music. But he writes his solo albums for himself. He doesn’t put them out very often but they are generally great. His last two (Bad Love and Hearts and Angels) are right up there with his best and worth a listen. Nobody else is really doing stuff like trying to right a funny song about Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel” (“Great Nations of Europe”). With a little luck, he will carry on for a while to come.

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