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Randy Newman Found Himself Shrinking After Scary Diagnosis

Randy Newman Found Himself Shrinking After Scary Diagnosis

To younger generations, Randy Newman is the name scrolling by in the credits of their favorite childhood movies. While to older folks, he’s the grouchy, witty, singer-songwriter responsible for some of the funniest, most cynical, and down-right sharpest songs to ever hit the airwaves.

Fast approaching his eighties, with a career spanning sixty years, Randy’s music has covered the highs and lows of his life. So come with us as in this video we’ll cover some of the defining moments in Randy Newman’s life and reveal the latest speed bump he has been forced to overcome.


Fans anticipating seeing Randy Newman live at the start of 2022 were greeted instead with bad news. Randy was scheduled to begin his “Evening with Randy Newman” European tour after having to previously reschedule the original 2020 dates when the coronavirus pandemic swept the world. This new plan was cut tragically short when he noticed something appeared to be wrong – people who used to be shorter than him appeared to now be taller. After investigation it turns out, unbeknownst to him, Randy’s neck had been broken.

Surgery was immediately necessary, and while it was performed successfully, doctor’s orders required those dates to be cancelled. In a statement Newman announced he now “looks less like an anteater and more like a folk rock artist from the early sixties”. Lamenting not being able to perform, something already missing from his life over the past three years, Newman promised to return to those places he had to withdraw from.

Epstein-Barr syndrome

Having a broken neck isn’t the first time Randy has been stricken by personal issues affecting his ability to perform.

In 1986 Newman was a victim of the Epstein-Barr virus, resulting in chronic fatigue syndrome. The fatigue left him unable to go up more than a few steps without losing his breath, and the resulting depression from the illness was coupled with the strife from his recent split from his wife Roswitha Schmale in 1985. Randy battled the virus for two and half years before recovering after an overhauling of his diet and exercise routine.

Newman and Schmale divorced officially in 1989, though they remain amicable, and the three kids they had together are still in Newman’s life, with his first son Amos, being his agent.

Growing Up

Newman is rarely open until he wants to be. His 1988 album Land of Dreams, opens with a set of a three songs that are arguably the most personal and honest his music has ever been – telling the tale of a young boy being forced to move away from home.

When he was young Newman’s father, Irving, returned from World War II and moved his family from New Orleans to Los Angeles. Newman later in life revealing him and his father were close although there was a contentiousness in their relationship. Newman’s father occasionally believed that bitter old men characters in Randy’s songs for stand-ins for him, a fact Randy vehemently denies. Randy’s affection for the soul of New Orleans, and criticism of the apparent soullessness of Los Angeles have been well documented in songs such as his hit “I Love LA”.

Chronicling his own feelings about growing up, Land of Dreams touches upon the alienation he experienced being Jewish in the Deep South on top of the sight problems Newman experienced growing up. Heavily cross-eyed, it took four operations, starting at age five, to correct them. To this day he has partial double vision, and openly struggles with eye contact.

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Growing up Newman always felt envious of the comfort others found in their faith.

Raised by two non-observant Jews, Randy himself identifies as atheist. He turned away from religion when he was young after an incident where he was invited by a classmate to be her date at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. Upon accepting the invitation he was promptly disinvited by the classmate’s father, on the grounds that Jews were not allowed at the club, prompting Randy to ask his father what a Jew was. Reading up on faith, including the Bible itself, he ultimately decided he wouldn’t believe in any of it.

Newman’s skepticism towards faith became the main topic of “God’s Song”, from his album “Sail Away” about a God who is amused by the fact humanity still worships him in spite of the apathetic way he’s treated them. Newman later ruminated that faith is the result of humans search wildly for meaning, but while he has a sort of work belief, he has no theology in him, though he admits it’s tougher to live without it.

The Top Songs

The Great Debate

Two topics close to home for Randy, New Orleans and the complexities of faith interweave in the song “The Great Debate” from his most recent album Dark Matter.

Featuring Newman’s penchant for both orchestral and gospel “The Great Debate” pits people of faith against people of science. While the scientific half seems to win most of the debate topics the chorus seems to win the song, proclaiming they will “take Jesus every time.” The song reflects the inner conflict prevalent throughout much of Newman’s career. Newman later stating that faith wins purely because of the music. The one thing the science half lacks, which it could never win with, is soul and music.

Short People

Randy Newman’s biggest (non-Toy Story-related) hit was a primary example of one of Newman’s favourite song writing tropes – an unreliable narrator.

Short People is bouncy, jovial tune about how short people are some of the worst people out there, with a seemingly endless list of negative traits, the song concluding with the assertion that short people have no reason to live.

The song peaked at Number 2 on the Billboard top one hundred, and divided people into two camps – those who got the joke and those who didn’t. Those who didn’t were a vocal minority, with State of Maryland delegate Isaiah Dixon attempting to get it pulled from airplay.

Regardless of its accuracy being described novelty record, the song has remained a mainstay of many Greatest Hits compilations and is one of Newman’s most popular tunes.

I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It)

One of the songs Randy was asked to perform when he was inaugurated into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is all about aging rockstars who don’t know when their glory days are behind them. Complaining about not being as good as you once were, while your pedigree means no one is going to ask you to leave is a conundrum Newman explores in the most rocking song in his discography.

Close attention should be paid to the footage of Newman playing I’m Dead and I Love LA at his 2013 induction ceremony, if not just for the close up shot of a beloved fan chanting along happily to their choruses. That fan? Jack Nicholson. If asking Jack Nicholson to shout “he’s dead” at you while you’re performing isn’t peak comedy then we don’t know what is.

If I Didn’t Have You

Speaking of iconic live performances, the 2001 Oscars performance of Monsters Inc’s “If I Didn’t Have You” is truly a sight to behold. John Goodman takes centre stage to sing the song written for his character James P. Sullivan and Billy Crystal’s Mike Wazowski, but on stage who takes the spot of Mr. Crystal? Mr. Newman himself.

In previous years Randy had been had been nominated fifteen different times in the Best Score and Best Song categories, but had unfortunately never won. Dressed like a dapper pair at a jazz club, the performance from the two of them give the song the gravitas it deserves as Newman’s first Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Political Science

1972’s Political Science, is a creeping, building song who’s narrator is only revealed at around the halfway mark. A grand yet subdued tee-up of America’s general ignorance to foreign policies, Political Science is part Tom Lehrer, part nuclear warning. A beloved gem from Newman’s vast songbook, it has been covered numerous times by artists such as Don Henley of the Eagles fame, Natalie Merchant, and Wilco.

You’ve Got A Friend In Me

The all-time classic. Once it played in the 1995 Pixar movie Toy Story, You’ve Got A Friend In Me and Randy Newman’s names were seared into the hearts of a generation of kids and those kid’s kids passed down throughout generations. As sickly saccharine as they come, Newman infuses a gentle jolly melody with enough heart and cozy nostalgia that you can’t possibly forget the jingle once you’ve heard it.

As opposed to resenting his monumental hit, like his tetchy history with the popularity of Short People, Randy wouldn’t dream of not playing You’ve Got A Friend In me, saying in 2017 it’s too big of a deal to people not to.

That’s it from us. Now it’s time to hear from you! Make sure to throw us a like and let us know what your favourite Randy Newman song is in the comments below. Also let us know what type of Randy you prefer, comedic or dour? Before you go don’t forget to subscribe to FactsVerse to keep up to date on our content and click the bell to guarantee you won’t miss a video.

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