Mr. Randy Newman, who turns 68 years old today, turned in one of the best and our most most favorite sets of this year's Austin City Limits Music Festival. In a festival littered with Kanye West, Coldplay, and Skrillex, Newman's set was the most stripped down and satisfying. He had company that weekend on other stages, with singer-songwriters like Hayes Carll and Ray LaMontagne both influenced by his simple sounds.
"Newman solo onstage with just his compositions, a smile, and an adoring crowd was one of the most magical things we would see this weekend. Above the lights, the screams, and half-naked people running around the other stages, it was the simple design of a man and piano that thrilled us the most," Rocks Off wrote the day after his Sunday evening set.
Newman's catalog has always challenged us, because it's completely real, dropping emotions into his short songs that few people have been able to express since. The typical American themes of money, race, love, class warfare he laid bare, sometimes using coarse and offensive language.
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Younger artists have been covering Newman's stuff lately too. Justin Townes Earle and Robert Ellis cover "Louisiana 1927" live as well, though Ellis' is a little more rocking than Earle's reverent take. That song and his "Short People" get covered the most, the latter because well, it's funny.
We collected our 20 favorite Newman cuts, from his Toy Story work, his great underrated Born Again, and the California noir of Trouble In Paradise.
And yes, so you don't have to go search for it, is the Family Guy parody of our birthday boy...