I’ve always been hard pressed to pick a “favorite musical artist”. My tastes are broad, encompassing styles from myriad genres, eras, writers, lyricists, composers, players and entertainers from across the globe, spanning centuries.
At times I favor a certain type over another. Two things are constant: I always return to the blues, where I always find comfortable shoes and Randy Newman’s music never fails to give me goose-bumps.
I get goose bumps when something connects with me on a subconscious level. It can happen ever time I hear a favorite passage regardless of when I last heard it.
Goose bumps guide me through life. That’s how I first suspected that I loved my wife. I get them when movies grab me, they pop up when I listen to very good music and as I read exceptionally well-crafted, words. The spoken word, poetry, homilies and speeches can give me goosebumps. Bush’s words never did. Obama’s frequently do.
Flipping around cable this morning, I stumbled across Barry Levinson’s “Avalon,’ which I remembered as a good film. I watched for several minutes trying to recall its plot, then realized that the soundtrack was typical Randy Newman. Of course, I stayed put. Some of his movie works rank among his best and “Avalon” is one of those. “Ragtime” is another.
My sons, both roughly the same age I was when I discovered Randy Newman, love him nearly as much as I do. I’ve seen him live three times and each was a true reward. I hope to see him live again. If he asked me to, I’d do his laundry.
I’ve been listening to his latest CD, “Harps and Angels” which my eldest son gave me for Christmas. We actually traded-I gave him one as well.
As I listened to “Avalon’s” closing piece, cranked up on my TV, the song (devoid of lyrics) yielded the predictable goose-bumps. The stark, yet lush beauty of its simple melody provokes multiple emotions. At that moment, I realized something that had escaped me all these years.
I do have a favorite musician/composer, Randy Newman. No matter what he does, he still can transport me back to college, where I first heard him on a promo that arrived at the college-based, FM Public Radio station at which I labored for minimum wage (an LP I still own). It was Randy live, plunking the piano and singing in his inimitable, “take it or leave it” manner.
Since then, his humor, wit, irreverence, political commentary, musicianship, versatility, intelligence and rare gifts as a storyteller who can break all the rules yet still create magic never ceases to amaze, excite and please me.
So, Here’s to Randy Newman…A man of many faces, characters, voices (even though his own is limited) and artistic integrity. Your being here has enriched my life, as I imagine it has countless others. I hope and pray that you outlive me, because I can’t imagine not looking forward to your next project. You continue to surprise even though your work always “Feels Like Home” to me.
Thanks for everything and God Bless you, Randy!