Monday, February 11, 2013

Randy Newman’s thoughts on fear

Right now we are in between the Grammy Awards and the president’s State of the Union speech. What connects those topics?

Singer-songwriter and composer Randy Newman is a great storyteller. On his 2008 CD Harps and Angels there is a song called A Few Words in Defense of Our Country containing the following lyric:

“A president once said,
‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself’
Now it seems like we’re supposed to be afraid
It’s patriotic in fact and color coded
And what are we supposed to be afraid of?
Why, of being afraid
That’s what terror means, doesn’t it?
That’s what it used to mean”

An abridged version of that song appeared as an op-ed in the New York Times on January 24, 2007 called State of the Union: Another Take. I never understood that five-level Homeland Security Advisory System chart, which since has been replaced by something simpler with just Elevated or Imminent. It looked like they began with traffic light colors of green-yellow-red, then decided they wanted two more levels, but forgot that in the visible spectrum blue should come after green. 

Randy Newman won six Grammys, and was nominated another nine times - all for film music. He also won two Academy Awards for Best Original Song, but was nominated another eighteen times. Many people think of him just as having written family-friendly film scores with songs like We Belong Together for Toy Story 3 and Our Town for Cars. But, long ago he also wrote very adult songs like Mama Told Me Not To Come, You Can Leave Your Hat On, and I Love LA.  

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