Randy Newman's America

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01Randy Newman's America: Part One20170704

American singer-songwriter and composer Randy Newman on songs from the USA.

01Randy Newman's America: Part One20170704

American singer-songwriter and composer Randy Newman on songs from the USA.

How does a songwriter reveal what he thinks of his country? Randy Newman, a master lyricist, has never had a problem. In these two programmes he talks about how America has and perhaps more importantly, has not changed over his life.

Since the age of sixteen, he has consistently written songs about difficult topics and set them to soaring melodies. He's always dared to criticize and invented controversial characters - a slave recruiter, a Redneck Southerner or an entitled wealthy Californian lording it over his Mexican maid and his kid's private school teacher.

In the first of this two part series, he talks about the American Dream. He comes from an extended talented family of Hollywood musicians and composers but his grandfather came from Kiev to New York where he was a fruit peddler. We hear how growing up, it was his black housekeeper Lucinda who introduced Randy to gospel music and how he loved the beach culture of LA but feels sorry for the surfers who never grew up. He plays the blues he fell in love with as a teenager and from his new album, debuts a semi fictional song about two men called Sonny Boy Williamson. He chats about the country music he likes and his feelings for New Orleans and Nashville. He remembers the fun he had watching Westerns and working on them. It isn't all nostalgic - black people in America are marginally better off he says. The early days of bussing were hard on white children. It isn't easy for a Jew to feel fully American and yet, he believes the American dream is still a beacon for immigrants. And so on July 4th, American Independence Day, Newman celebrates his country's taboos, conflicts and bigotry with a big dose of joyful acceptance.

01Randy Newman's America: Part One20170704

American singer-songwriter and composer Randy Newman on songs from the USA.

How does a songwriter reveal what he thinks of his country? Randy Newman, a master lyricist, has never had a problem. In these two programmes he talks about how America has and perhaps more importantly, has not changed over his life.

Since the age of sixteen, he has consistently written songs about difficult topics and set them to soaring melodies. He's always dared to criticize and invented controversial characters - a slave recruiter, a Redneck Southerner or an entitled wealthy Californian lording it over his Mexican maid and his kid's private school teacher.

In the first of this two part series, he talks about the American Dream. He comes from an extended talented family of Hollywood musicians and composers but his grandfather came from Kiev to New York where he was a fruit peddler. We hear how growing up, it was his black housekeeper Lucinda who introduced Randy to gospel music and how he loved the beach culture of LA but feels sorry for the surfers who never grew up. He plays the blues he fell in love with as a teenager and from his new album, debuts a semi fictional song about two men called Sonny Boy Williamson. He chats about the country music he likes and his feelings for New Orleans and Nashville. He remembers the fun he had watching Westerns and working on them. It isn't all nostalgic - black people in America are marginally better off he says. The early days of bussing were hard on white children. It isn't easy for a Jew to feel fully American and yet, he believes the American dream is still a beacon for immigrants. And so on July 4th, American Independence Day, Newman celebrates his country's taboos, conflicts and bigotry with a big dose of joyful acceptance.

02Randy Newman's America: Part Two20170711

Randy Newman sits at his piano and talks about why he is conflicted about his country.

How does a songwriter reveal what he thinks of his country? Randy Newman, a master lyricist, has never had a problem. In these two programmes he talks about how America has and perhaps more importantly, has not changed over his life. Since the age of sixteen, he has consistently written songs about difficult topics and set them to soaring melodies.

In the second of this two part series, Newman's exploration of what makes America a great and a difficult place to live in, takes us to the angry proud and embattled South where 'the civil war has never been won' to the power of religious music to a new song making fun of the Kennedy brothers.

Always brilliant at seeing into the future, Randy revisits his song Mr. President that eerily describes his views of the current President of the United States, which he freely expresses. But because he's Randy Newman he lashes out with pithy wit. He explains a new song The Great Debate about the clash between science and religion that has always divided the country. It's a short story in song with vibrant characters. Randy Newman ever the narrator relishes setting himself up as straw man putting up arguments that he knocks down. From his comfortable home in the Pacific Palisades he admits that he admires those people who have stepped out of the rat race to follow their passions in an America without a safety net. Not many pop songs are comic he says but for him, it's the best way to be serious about your country.

02Randy Newman's America: Part Two20170711

Randy Newman sits at his piano and talks about why he is conflicted about his country.

How does a songwriter reveal what he thinks of his country? Randy Newman, a master lyricist, has never had a problem. In these two programmes he talks about how America has and perhaps more importantly, has not changed over his life. Since the age of sixteen, he has consistently written songs about difficult topics and set them to soaring melodies.

In the second of this two part series, Newman's exploration of what makes America a great and a difficult place to live in, takes us to the angry proud and embattled South where 'the civil war has never been won' to the power of religious music to a new song making fun of the Kennedy brothers.

Always brilliant at seeing into the future, Randy revisits his song Mr. President that eerily describes his views of the current President of the United States, which he freely expresses. But because he's Randy Newman he lashes out with pithy wit. He explains a new song The Great Debate about the clash between science and religion that has always divided the country. It's a short story in song with vibrant characters. Randy Newman ever the narrator relishes setting himself up as straw man putting up arguments that he knocks down. From his comfortable home in the Pacific Palisades he admits that he admires those people who have stepped out of the rat race to follow their passions in an America without a safety net. Not many pop songs are comic he says but for him, it's the best way to be serious about your country.