Randy Newman Biography

Songwriter, Singer, Pianist (1943–)
Randy Newman is an American singer, musician and songwriter known for such songs as "Short People," "I Love L.A." and "Mama Told Me Not to Come."


Born Los Angeles, California, in 1943, Randy Newman released his first single in 1962. His self-titled debut album came six years later. Newman scored his first and only major pop hit with 1977's "Short People." In the early 1980s, his song "I Love L.A." was a minor success. Newman began working on film soundtracks in the '70s. Since then, he's won awards for his musical contributions to such movies as The Natural (1984); A Bug's Life (1999); Monsters, Inc. (2001); and Toy Story 3 (2010).

Early Life and Career

Famed singer, musician and composer Randy Newman was born on November 28, 1943, in Los Angeles, California. Known for his well-crafted lyrics and appealing melodies, Randy Newman is known for such songs as "Short People," "I Love L.A." and "Mama Told Me Not to Come." While his father was a doctor, he did have several musical relatives. His uncles, Alfred, Emil and Lionel Newman, were famous for their musical scores for movies.

Newman began studying the piano at age seven. His playing style was strongly influenced by the musicians he heard while visiting family in New Orleans growing up. By the time he was 17, Newman was writing songs professionally. He put out his first single, "Golden Girdiron Boy," in 1962.

Successful Singer-Songwriter

After letting others such as Judy Collins, Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald and Joni Mitchell sing his songs, Newman took to performing at colleges and nightclubs in the late 1960s. He earned a reputation for both his inimitable piano and vocal style, which combined the casual with highly mannered effects, and for his lyrics, which sardonically dissected politics and society. In 1968, he released his first album Randy Newman, which earned critical acclaim. Newman also received great praise for his next effort 12 Songs (1970), but strong reviews didn't lead to great record sales. Three Dog Night re-recorded one of the album's songs, "Mama Told Me Not to Come," which became a No. 1 hit for the group in 1970.

Sail Away (1972) featured "You Can Leave Your Hat On," which has been covered by Tom Jones and Joe Cocker. It was with Little Criminals (1977) that Newman had his first and only major hit. "Short People" climbed as high as number two on the Billboard pop charts. The next commercial success Newman had came on a lesser scale with "I Love L.A.," from 1983's Trouble in Paradise. The song has been used as an anthem for many Los Angeles sports teams. Among his later albums are Land of Dreams (1988), Bad Love (1999) and Harps and Angels (2008).

King of Soundtracks

In addition to career in rock music, Newman began composing film scores in the 1970s. His first effort was for Cold Turkey in 1971. He received two Academy Award nominations for his score and his song "One More Hour" for the film Ragtime (1981). While it failed to win an Oscar, his work on The Natural (1984) earned him a Grammy Award for best instrumental composition. Over the years, he has earned several more Grammys.

Newman also garnered Academy Award nominations for his work on Parenthood (1989), Avalon (1990), The Paper (1994), James and the Giant Peach (1996) and several other films. He finally won an Oscar for his song "If I Didn't Have You," from the 2001 animated tale Monsters, Inc.

Continuing to thrive in film, Newman won his second Oscar for the song "We Belong Together," from Toy Story 3 (2010). He has also had success on the small screen, winning three Emmy Awards; two of these honors came from his work on the popular detective series Monk.

Personal Life

Married twice, Newman has three children from his first marriage to Roswitha Schmale. He is currently married to Gretchen Preece; the couple has two children together.

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