Randy Newman PhotoBORN: November 28, 1943, New Orleans, LA

Though he perhaps was most famous during the '60s and '70s for writing quirky, darkly funny or sharply satirical songs that often painted vivid portraits detailing the foibles and lives of lifelike characters, there is much more to Randy Newman's music than humor or novelty. Stylistically, his music runs the gamut from classically-influenced film scores, to R&B-type pop, to haunting ballads and most of all, to his upbeat subtly orchestrated, shuffling amalgam of New Orleans jazz and ragtime. Though his output of recorded music is somewhat sporadic, owing largely to his innate perfectionism, Newman has had great effect on pop music and those influenced by him include Lyle Lovett Paul Simon, and Mark Knopfler. Newman's contributions to film scoring have also been large and in 1995, he earned Oscar nominations for Best Song and Best Original Musical or Comedy score for his work in Toy Story (1995).

Newman was born in Los Angeles during WW II. At the time, his father was overseas serving as an army captain in Italy, and Newman's childhood was one punctuated by numerous moves throughout the South where his mother's family and closest friends lived. He was most influenced, by the time he spent with his mother's family in New Orleans. Musically, one of Newman's greatest influences were the compositions of his uncle Alfred Newman, one of cinema's finest and most highly regarded film scorists. His two other uncles Lionel and Emil were also noted composers. As a boy, Newman frequently visited the soundstages where his uncle worked.

Newman began writing songs for Metric, the publishing house for Liberty Records at age 16 thanks to the influence of his close friend Lenny Waronker, son of the company's founder Simon Waronker. Songwriting has never been easy for Newman and it took him a long time to find his unique voice. In 1962, he wrote his first music for television for the episode "Northern Comfort" on the sitcom Dobie Gillis. At the time, Newman was moonlighting part-time at Twentieth Century Fox working on an old copy machine and fetching music for composers. He also found time to compose additional music for such shows as Lost in Space and most notably for Peyton Place. Newman composed his first film score for Cold Turkey (1971), the funny story of an entire town that tries to quit smoking. Newman did not score another film until Ragtime (1981). The lovely waltzes he composed for this film earned Newman his first Oscar nomination. Over the next few years Newman would earn numerous other Academy Award nominations, including one for the song Make Up Your Mind, that was heard in Ron Howard's The Paper. Newman tried his hand at screenwriting when he collaborated on the script for John Landis western spoof, The Three Amigos (1986).

Newman spent most of the '90s composing film scores and working on a musical adaptation of Dr. Faust. The resulting musical, Faust, was initially released as a concept album in the fall of 1995 to mixed reviews. A stage version of Faust opened the same month as the album's release, and it received better reviews. Newman another Oscar nomination in 1996 for "You've Got a Friend," which was featured in the Disney computer-animated film, Toy Story. His career was celebrated in 1998 with the release of the four-disc box set Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman.

Newman split with his longtime record company Reprise in early 1999. He signed with DreamWorks and released Bad Love, his first proper album since 1988's Land of Dreams, in the summer of 1999. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide