Randy Newman

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When a song that you wrote when barely out of your teenage years is covered by the high priestess of soul music, Nina Simone, chances are you’ve tapped into something good. Such was the case with Randy Newman and "I Think It's Going to Rain Today." But this was just the beginning of Newman's career. He was feted as a songwriter practically as soon as his pencil left the paper and was championed early and often by Harry Nilsson and Alan Price, who dedicated partial and entire albums to his songs. His caustic wit stood the notion of a standard pop song on end and his albums, such as Sail Away and Good Old Boys, were like George Gershwin interpreted by Fats Domino with Mark Twain overseeing the whole thing. It would be his more snide and humorous tracks that would be his biggest hits — "Short People" and "I Love L.A." — but his catalog of music could also be devastatingly somber and moving. The Randy Newman of today is known for his musical scores, from Ragtime to Toy Story, where the sunnier side of his musical vocabulary has brought him his greatest successes.