Randy Newman's American Dreams

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Among his peers, Randy Newman is considered one of the most respected singer-songwriters in contemporary American music. For over 40 years, he has composed a variety of hits for artists as diverse as Judy Collins, Three Dog Night, and Tom Jones. In 1997, Newman caused controversy with the chart-topping "Short People," wrote the stage musical Faust, and became a successful composer for such acclaimed films as The Natural, Avalon, Toy Story, and Monsters Inc. Yet, despite his vast body of work, Newman is still far from being a household name.

This book examines why this enigmatic, audacious composer has been so largely unacknowledged -- and misunderstood -- by listeners and fans alike. With detailed precision, Courrier delves into the reasons for Newman's peripheral status on the cultural landscape, suggesting that, at heart, he has always been a musical outsider and built a career in the mainstream by donning a brilliant disguise. This is an illuminating portrait of the artist as a masked man -- an Artful Dodger taking readers on an equivocal voyage up through the streams and tributaries of a vast and sometimes tragically complex American domain.


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The only reason for giving this more than one star is because there are enough quotations by Randy himself and information about his work to make it actually worth reading. The problem with this book is Mr. Courrier's insistence on giving his uninformed opinions on so many of Randy's best songs. Masterpieces like "Baltimore," "I Love L.A.," and many others are denigrated, mostly for what Mr. Courrier feels are weak lyrics. But he also goes after the music, particularly in films scores like "The Natural," which many consider one of the great film scores of all time. Mr. Courrier doesn't, and his many snide, thoughtless remarks about this and so many other wonderful works is exceedingly tiresome. It's fine to criticize things, but when you do it in the smarmy, wise-ass, uninformed way it's done in this book, it just undercuts any authority you might have. Courrier also gives far too much attention to detailing the plots and backgrounds of the movies for which Randy has written the music. He is as weak at reviewing films as he is at reviewing songs or scores.
Not a good book or a good writer.

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10/10 would read again


A Life Before the Mask
A Life Behind the Mask
Claiming the Mask
The Success of the Mask
The Celluloid Mask
The Face Behind the Mask
Lonely at the Top
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About the author (2005)

Kevin Courrier is a writer/broadcaster and film critic at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Courrier has also written about film and pop culture in Box Office, the Globe and Mail, and the Toronto Star.

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