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Seems like I can never get free of that kind of crap," Randy Newman moans and shifts fitfully in his chair opposite me.
Warbling along in his dense, nasal wheeze, Newman has for over a decade been creating a catalog of highly acclaimed — and highly controversial — material with a knack for icy description and a distinctively astringent keyboard style.
His playing mixes classical idioms with sultry stride piano, Gershwin with the gurgling of a gutter bum, and his medium is an intensely American sort of social commentary — Stephen Foster with a sick mind, some say.
And just as Newman often dislikes himself, he elicits a similar response from the people who are targeted in his caustic songs.But then he'd get terrible writing blocks and couldn't ever satisfy himself."When he was about seventeen, he got a job writing songs at Metric Music, through his buddy Lenny Waronker [whose father was the board chairman of Liberty Records, Metric's parent company].One composition, a sentimental waltz entitled "Who Gave You the Roses," found its way onto one of Bing Crosby's B sides in 1959.When Randy and Lenny weren't playing sports in the backyard, sitting at the piano in Randy's room or hiding out in the little house they built in the great Brazilian walnut tree on the Newmans' front lawn, they were frequently sitting in hushed awe on some Twentieth Century-Fox soundstage while Alfred put a sixty-five-piece orchestra through its film-synchronization paces.