Randy NewmanWhen Ulysses Grant said he knew two songs — one was Yankee Doodle Dandy and the other wasn't — he was being his usual wry self. The journalist he spoke to, a gentleman from the New York papers (who else?), took it as further proof of Grant's cultural inadequacies (the fact that Grant could read French and German somehow was ignored). What the President was saying was that, in matters of taste, there is ultimately only what you enjoy and what you don't, and disapproving of other peoples' tastes is a bit like cursing the darkness because you can't find a match.

One of the reasons that I love Randy Newman is that he writes the kind of songs that can clear a room of sanctimony. For lefties "Rednecks" always does the trick, and for everyone else "Short People" is usually enough. "Political Science" remains the ultimate test.

Charles Pennington replies:

I'm disappointed! Randy Newman's MO is this: a rant by a fat-target narrator (e.g. one who hates short people or foreigners) coupled with a sappy whispered or implied corrective ("Short people are just the same as you and I." Well, thank you very much.)

What am I missing?

Stefan Jovanovich responds:

For some of us the politics of smart people can be very, very funny. Who else could complain with a straight face that "I left Harvard with no real awareness of the awful inequities in the world" but Bill Gates? I don't think Mr. Newman is targeting the narrators of his songs nearly as much as you hope, Professor, and he really is satirizing the PC notion of "one big community" in offering his "correctives."

If you have spent as much time among the millionaire leftists of Beverly Hills and their children and grandchildren as the son of Alfred Newman (film composer, not MAD magazine icon) has, laughter becomes the primary defense against the undying hypocrisy that goes with so much "elite" (sic) opinion. It is the only way to wash away the anger.

Gordon Haave extends:

Having moved from Greenwich, CT to Oklahoma, I've noticed just how elitist the rest of the country's view of country music is. Here, walking into someone's home or business, one is more likely to hear country (or "contemporary Christian") than to hear "pop".

Country singer Dwight Yoakam created perhaps the only cover song ever that is better than the original.


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