Randy Newman – Good Old Boys (1974)
Unbelievable USA logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming
USA Artists (so far): Aimee Mann, Marty Robbins, D’Angelo, The Modern Lovers, Bruce Springsteen, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, Steely Dan, Grant Lee Buffalo, 2Pac, Harry Nilsson, Linkin Park, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Randy Newman
“If there’s music out there staying awake
To cry and drain every eye until hatred’s eliminated
And music that can help you feel great
And come together in the fictive dream with a kind of Randy Newman take.”
– The Tragically Hip, Use it Up
In recent decades, Randy Newman has had a knack for writing music that can help me feel great.
My girls went through a Princess & The Frog phase this summer, I quite enjoyed hearing those trademark Randy Newman chord progressions in the background while making dinner. And I was pleased when I’d attempt the character voices and my 2-year old would exclaim, “you sound like the Shadowman!”
Music, with a kind of Randy Newman take, that can help you feel great indeed.
But until this week, I hadn’t figured out how to process Good Old Boys.
The music would still be right at home on a Disney/Pixar soundtrack, his voice is as instantly identifiable as ever.
The lyrics, however, especially on the opening track, Rednecks, are miles from You’ve Got A Friend in Me.
But then I saw this Jon Stewart interview and I finally understood what Randy was arguing (at 3:45):
The Good Old Boys parallels to 2016 started to become clear to me.
In Rednecks, Newman argues that while the South had a long history of Slavery, Northerners are wrong to stereotype Southerners as an entirely ignorant group of bigots, while ignoring prejudices and problems in their own back yard.
Fast forward to 2016, Stewart argues that while racists voted for Trump, to call all Trump voters racist would be wrong. Worse, it would be hypocritical, akin to making ignorant blanket statements like the ones the Trump campaign would make about Muslims, Mexicans, etc.
Issues are much more complex than that; Newman’s songs on Good Old Boys are much more complex than they appear on the surface.
Whether this album is full of “music that can make you feel great,” I’m not sure.
But returning to the opening hip quote, it’s a different “kind of Randy Newman take” for me. One that leaves more questions than answers. One that’s not necessarily telling me what I want to hear, one that’s not confirming my biases.
So maybe it’s just the right record for November 2016: if empathy is going to be critical moving forward, considering the vast amounts of hatred yet to be eliminated, I should be mindful of my own hypocrisies.
Or to revise the Bo Diddley tune, Before I accuse You, Take a Look at Myself.
Verbalize the Positive
I appreciate how my friend Aaron @ Keepsmealive had The Tragically Hip song quoted above as the banner on his site earlier this year, a good old track if there ever was one. He’s also beyond generous & does so much to build the blogging community. Or to quote him, COMMUNITY!