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How Randy Newman and His Family Have Shaped Movie Music for Generations

You know Randy Newman from the songs in Toy Story, or, if you are a certain age, from his 1977 hit “Short People.” You might not know that Newman, while releasing a dozen albums over the years, has been steadily making a name in Hollywood composing film scores. His talent came naturally. Randy Newman’s uncle Alfred Newman was the musical director of Twentieth Century Fox for two decades. His uncles Emil and Lionel were also musical composers. The musical legacy of the family was brought out in a 2014 award ceremony in Vienna.  

As part of the Vienna festivities, Newman conducted a section of his score for The Natural and then handed the baton to his cousin David Newman, one of Alfred’s sons and an eminent film composer in his own right (Ice Age, Hoffa, Anastasia), who led the orchestra through passages from Randy’s soundtracks for such films as Ragtime, Avalon, and A Bug’s Life. At the concert’s end, Randy rejoined the orchestra, sitting at the piano to sing his universally known song from Toy Story, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

Newman won his first Oscar in 2002, for the song “If I Didn’t Have You,” from Monsters, Inc., after losing out the initial 15 times he was nominated. (“I don’t want your pity,” he joked to the audience in response to their standing ovation.) He has since won a second Oscar, in 2011, for the song “We Belong Together,” from Toy Story 3, securing his place both as a decorated practitioner of the family business, film music (Alfred won nine Academy Awards, more than anyone except Walt Disney and the production designer Cedric Gibbons), and as Alfred’s heir as the wise old head of the Newman family—“kind and approachable, very patriarchal, but sort of second-generation patriarchal,” as his cousin Thomas Newman, David’s younger brother, put it. Tom Newman, too, is a big-deal film composer, a 13-time Oscar nominee who has collaborated regularly with Steven Soderbergh, Andrew Stanton, and Sam Mendes. The current Academy Award nominee Bridge of Spies and the next big Pixar release, Finding Dory, are among his recent credits. David and Tom’s sister Maria is a composer and an in-demand violinist and violist for film-scoring sessions, and one of Lionel’s grandsons, Joey Newman, composes the music for such TV series as The Middle and The Mysteries of Laura.

Other members of the family have been involved in movie production and music publishing. The real outlier was Randy’s father Irving, who was a talented musician but “was the rare Jew who felt he had let down his family by falling into medicine.” Randy grew up in Los Angeles, surrounded by Hollywood musicians as influences. A profile at Vanity Fair follows the story of Alfred Newman and his brothers and their progeny in the movie music business, especially Randy Newman, whose career has been split between great success in film scores and a legacy of socially-conscious songs. -via Digg

(Image credit: Sam Jones)

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