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Overview for Randy Newman
Randy Newman

Randy Newman


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Also Known As: Randall Stuart Newman Died:
Born: November 28, 1943 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Los Angeles, California, USA Profession: Music ... composer arranger pianist singer orchestrator conductor screenwriter


Singer-songwriter-film composer Randy Newman had been one of the most oft-nominated individuals at the Academy Awards without ever having won - that is, until he finally took home the award for his original song, "If I Didn't Have You" from "Monsters, Inc." (2001). Prior to courting the Oscars, Newman had been a popular writer of novelty songs that were both sardonic and catchy throughout the 1960s and 1970s. One of his most famous was "Short People," which became his biggest hit. Though he had his start writing songs and themes for television and film, Newman would not be officially associated with scoring movies until he wrote the music for "Ragtime" (1981), which deviated wildly from his sarcastic ditties from a decade prior. Newman would go on to score the music and write songs for some of the biggest movies of the next two decades, including "The Natural" (1984), "Parenthood" (1989), "Toy Story" (1995), "A Bug's Life" (1998) and "Babe: Pig in the City" (1998). While all earned him Academy Award nominations, he became almost as famous for not winning as he did for the compositions themselves. But after 16 tries and finally winning the coveted statue, there had never been any doubt within the industry or with movie fans that Newman was one of the most revered and prolific film songwriters of all time.

Born on Nov. 28, 1942 in Los Angeles, CA, Newman was raised by his father, Irving, a musician-turned-doctor, and his mother, Adele, a secretary. Hailing from a family of motion picture composers - which included his uncles Alfred Newman, Emil Newman and Lionel Newman - he grew up surrounded by both music and Hollywood, which led to piano lessons at age six. Uncle Alfred was the most successful of the three, having scored some of the biggest films in Hollywood history, including "City Lights" (1931), "Wuthering Heights" (1939), "How Green Was My Valley" (1941), "All About Eve" and "Airport" (1970), as well as composing the famous 20th Century Fox fanfare still heard playing over the company logo. After a brief interlude living with his mother's family in New Orleans - also a hotbed of music - young Newman graduated from University High in Los Angeles. By the time he was 17, he was a contract songwriter for Metro Music, recording his first song, "They Tell Me Its Summer" (1962), for the Fleetwoods. Switching gears, Newman decided to pursue composing and arranging at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied music theory. In failing to complete a musical performance requirement, however, Newman did not graduate. But he did continue his success in the professional world, earning his first television credit for penning a saxophone instrumental for a 1962 episode of "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" (CBS, 1959-1963), followed by his first song for a motion picture, "Look At Me," which he co-wrote with Bobby Darin for the action drama "The Lively Set" (1964).

In 1964, Newman began a three year stint working out of the television music library at 20th Century Fox - incidentally, the studio that all of his uncles called home at one time or another - and where he penned music cues and themes for various series made by the studio, including the primetime drama "Peyton Place" (ABC, 1964-69). After signing with Reprise Records as a recording artist, Newman recorded and released his self-titled debut album, which earned critical praise but failed to break into the Billboard Top 200. Several popular artists, however, covered his songs, including "I Think It's Going to Rain Today," which became an industry standard. Though he composed the music for his first film, "Performance," in 1970, the movie was not released for another two years. In the meantime, he began touring on his own and even penned his first bona fide hit, "Mama Told Me Not to Come" (1970) for Three Dog Night. After contributing an original song to "The Pursuit of Happiness" (1971) and writing the film score for the Norman Lear comedy "Cold Turkey" (1971), Newman released more albums, including Sail Away (1972) and Good Old Boys (1974), which featured one of his all-time favorite songs, "Rednecks."

In 1977, Newman achieved a strong degree of notoriety when he released his next album, Little Criminals, which contained the surprise hit song, "Short People." With lyrics "Short people have no reason to live," Newman generated backlash from those who took the song literally, even as the song climbed the charts to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and despite the fact that the obviously satirical song was written as a condemnation of prejudice. Though he claimed the "Short People" was "one of the least controversial things I've written," the song and its songwriter forever remained infamous. Following the less-successful Born Again, Newman returned to Hollywood to compose the haunting, hypnotic waltz score for "Ragtime" (1981), which earned him his first two Academy Award nominations - one for Best Original Score and the other for Best Original Song ("One More Hour"). After another hit single, "I Love L.A.," which was part of hisTrouble in Paradise (1983) album, he earned another Oscar nod for his grand score for Barry Levinson's elegiac look at America's pastime, "The Natural" (1984), for which he won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition.

After pitching in to write the screenplay - as well as several songs - for "Three Amigos!" (1986), in which he also appeared as a singing bush, Newman suffered a personal setback when he was diagnosed as a sufferer of the physically debilitating Epstein-Barr Syndrome, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He bounced back, however, with his Oscar-nominated song, "I Love to See You Smile" for Ron Howard's "Parenthood" (1989) and his Oscar-nominated score for Barry Levinson's "Avalon" (1990), which fellow composer Hans Zimmer declared "the most beautiful American score ever written." Teaming up with Ron Howard once again, he earned yet another Academy Award nod for the song "Make Up Your Mind" for the director's media satire, "The Paper" (1994). Though that year he failed to pick up any further nods for his jaunty Western score for the Mel Gibson vehicle, "Maverick" (1994), Newman did find himself back at the Academy Awards for his song "You've Got a Friend in Me" and score for the first all computer-generated animated film, "Toy Story" (1995). He made his first foray into composing music for the theater when he wrote the music and lyrics for "Faust" (1995), which was inspired by reading G the's adaptation of the famed German legend. However, mixed reviews while performing the musical in Chicago put the project on temporary hold.

Having already been something of an institution, Newman found his niche composing music and songs for several animated films, including Tim Burton's "James and the Giant Peach" (1996), which earned him his ninth Academy Award nomination without a win. In 1998, he pulled off something that was accomplished only once before by Andre Previn in 1960, when he received Oscar nominations in three different categories: Original Musical or Comedy Score, Original Dramatic Score and Original Song for three different films - "A Bug's Life," "Pleasantville" and "That'll Do" from "Babe: Pig in the City," respectively. With the increased odds of winning, one might have safely assumed 1998 was Newman's year to finally break through. But as fate would have it, his Oscar glory would have to wait for another time. He had another shot at the title the following year for his song "When She Loved Me," which appeared in "Toy Story 2" (1999), but again he failed to make the grade. Meanwhile, following an 11-year hiatus from recording albums, he made Bad Love (1999), which found Newman returning to the biting satire that had made him famous in the 1970s.

After being nominated a 14th time for "A Fool in Love" from "Meet the Parents" (2000), Newman finally took home the coveted Oscar for his original song, "If I Didn't Have You," from the animated feature "Monsters, Inc." (2001). Beating out Sting and Paul McCartney, the "Susan Lucci of the Oscars" brought the house down when he accepted his long-desired statuette after 16 career nominations, imploring "I don't want y our pity." His total career Oscar nods pushed him ahead of Uncle Lionel's 11, though he was nowhere in the vicinity of Uncle Alfred's 45 nominations and nine wins. He was setting the pace, however, for the second generation of Newman movie composers, which included Alfred's sons David and Thomas. Meanwhile, "If I Didn't Have You" also earned him a Grammy Award, but winning the Oscar was, for him, the greatest satisfaction. Following a song for "Jurassic Park III" (2001), he wrote the music for the Oscar-nominated drama, "Seabiscuit" (2003), though no Academy Award nods came his way for those efforts. Newman settled into a nice creative groove with songs for "Kangaroo Jack" (2003), "Mr. 3000" (2004) and "Meet the Fockers" (2004) before he found himself back in Oscar contention for a 17th time for his song "Our Town," which was featured in Pixar's animated "Cars" (2006).

Following his composing the music for George Clooney's "Leatherheads" (2006), Newman joined forces again with Disney to pen the music and orchestrations for "The Princess and the Frog" (2009). Prior to that film score, he released another album after another decade-long hiatus, Harps and Angels (2008), which garnered strong critical acclaim. Meanwhile, he received yet more Oscar nominations for Best Original Song, this time for "Almost There" and "Down in New Orleans" from "The Princess and the Frog." He also found himself in Emmy contention for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for the song "When I'm Gone" from the long-running series, "Monk" (USA Network, 2001-09). Newman was again at the top of his game after writing the music for "Toy Story 3" (2010), which not only earned him a Grammy Award nomination for Best Score, but also his 20th Oscar nod, this time for his Best Original Song, "We Belong Together."

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