Video: Prepare to be bowled over by Randy Newman’s incisive, unpredictable political satire

posted at 3:21 pm on September 18, 2012 by Mary Katharine Ham

You ever watch the Oscars and think, “This is the best the best-paid, most acclaimed creative entertainment talents in all the world can give us on the most important night of their year?” Especially on a night dedicated to the ego-stroking and self-importance Hollywood has perfected, you’d think they’d really put on a show.

But maybe that kind of utterly predictable self-regard isn’t particularly good for the creative juices. Case in point: Randy Newman’s new satirical, political song. Oh, I know, the suspense is killing you. Which side will he take in this salient, timely political commentary?

Randy Newman is weighing in on the presidential election, and he’s playing the race card through a song he wrote called “I’m Dreaming.”

The piano tune features the refrain: “I’m dreaming of a white president.” It is full of satirical, sarcastic — and signature — Newman anecdotes about someone who votes for the president because he is white.

Newman, who is white, is openly supporting President Barack Obama.

You don’t say. “Wrote” is pretty generous, as it does generous borrowing from the Irving Berlin classic, “White Christmas.”

He says he wants the public to find comedic relief in the song, but to also know he’s serious about his thoughts that racism is well and alive in the world — and in the current presidential race. He called racism “the great issue of this country.”

And, I’m sure the generous portion of the country he’s satirically accusing of a base and ugly racism affecting their presidential vote will find it a real knee-slapper. Newman goes on to express that he thinks “that sentiment (racism) exists.” Brave truth-telling, that.

“I’m Dreaming” features lyrics like: “He won’t be the brightest, perhaps, but he’ll be the whitest, and I’ll vote for that.” He said as he wrote the song the lyrics “didn’t come that easy.”

That didn’t come easy? Brightest and whitest? Turns out it was the braveness of his truth-telling that was difficult, not the actual rhymes:

“It’s delicate enough that I’m not going to offend people every which way, but I wanted to get it right as best I could,” said Newman, who added that he’s always worried there may be some backlash following the release of a song like this one.

Yes, even when old, rich white guys in Hollywood are making the laziest, most hackneyed, most consequence-free social commentary about fellow, old, poorer white guys, they are still intrepid bards courting backlash in the name of the truth. I’m sure it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it, though.

I like Newman— he wrote one of my favorites, “Short People (Got No Reason to Live),” or as I like to call it, “The Ballad of Rahm Emanuel— and at least his delivery of his lazy, liberal lyricism is better than most. I don’t mind him putting out a political song and doing it to benefit a charity— the United Negro College Fund—but can’t these creative types, nuanced thinkers try a tiny bit harder to be creative and nuanced? I’m sure painting half of the country as old, racist white dudes bent on defeating a black, liberal president will really keep the Oscar train from stopping at his station.

Meh, call me when you’re writing satire about the feds carting amateur filmmakers away in the middle of the night. Enjoy the whole thing, but be careful playing the part about lions eating black children in the jungle, as even playing that kind of rhetoric is only allowed if you’re a certified liberal listening to another certified liberal satirically playing a racist, white man from Western Pennsylvania:

In other news, Bob Dylan don’t play that, which really annoys liberal magazine writers looking for utter predictability in their creative legends.


Exit question (AP™):
Wouldn’t this song have been more useful during the ’08 Democratic primary?


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