In the realm of misunderstood songwriters, Don Henley acknowledges the plight, having experienced it during his time with the Eagles. However, the level of misunderstanding that befell Randy Newman takes a peculiar turn. Newman’s biggest hit, ‘Short People,’ unleashed a pop-infused tirade against those of shorter stature, sung from the perspective of a “maniac.” Unfortunately, upon release, many mistakenly believed Newman himself harbored a prejudice against the vertically challenged.
Labeled a heightist bigot, Newman received cautionary letters, presumably from less towering individuals, leading him to play live shows while trying to obscure his delicate areas. Despite the unintended controversy, ‘Short People’ ironically propelled Newman into chart-topping success, showcasing the absurdity of discrimination through an upbeat, catchy, and joyously fun anthem.
This episode in Newman’s career epitomizes his penchant for irony and post-modernist songwriting from the perspective of an unreliable narrator. Henley, recognizing Newman’s genius, considers him a “national treasure” and one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated recording artists alive.
Newman’s mastery extends beyond performing, as he has seamlessly transitioned into a sought-after songwriter for others. Henley, discovering Newman’s depth in his back catalog, believes that Newman’s satirical approach influenced the Eagles to adopt a more literary style in songs like ‘Hotel California,’ exploring the death of the American Dream.
Henley applauds Newman’s ability to infuse ridicule and empathy into the same song, showcasing a range that transcends the pigeonholing effect of hits like ‘Short People’ and ‘I Love L.A.’ Concluding, Henley highlights Newman’s unique combination of lyrical genius and orchestration prowess, asserting, “There’s nobody quite like him.”