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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Randy Newman Weighs In on Race and Presidency in New Song


You can always trust Randy Newman to talk about the elephant in the room. The award-winning songwriter, who supports President Obama, has weighed in on the role of race in the presidential election, releasing a satirical song on Tuesday poking fun at voters who long for the days when a white man was in the White House.

The song has the refrain “I'm dreaming of a white president” and is written from the point of the view of a voter who casts his ballot solely on the basis of race. Mr. Newman said in a press release he felt the passionate opposition to President Obama over issues that generally put the public to sleep â€" the budget deficit and health care policy, for instance â€" belie a d eep strain of racism in the electorate.

“I think there are a lot of people who find it jarring to have a black man in the White House and they want him out,” Mr. Newman said. “They just can't believe that there's not a more qualified white man. You won't get anyone, and I do mean anyone, to admit it.”

Mr. Newman, who is white, released the song as a free download on his Web site, but encouraged listeners to donate to the United Negro College Fund.

At 68, Mr. Newman is perhaps best known for the songs he has composed for films like “Cars,” “Monsters, Inc.,” and the “Toy Story” films, as well as the theme song for the television show “Monk.”

On his albums, he often writes songs in character, with biased narrators who express extreme views for satirical effect. “Short People,” for instance, his 1977 single that reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, attacked people of small stature, as a general statement about prejudi ce. He used a similar lyrical technique on his song “Rednecks” from his 1974 album “Good Old Boys,” which explored the topic of institutionalized racism.

This time, however, Mr. Newman is wading right into the presidential race. The song includes the line: “He won't be the brightest, perhaps / But he'll be the whitest / And I'll vote for that.”

Mr. Newman told The Associated Press: “I felt that sentiment exists in the country. I don't know how many people you can get to admit it. I think maybe zero.”

A few other liberal songwriters have taken on the same issue recently, though none quite so directly. For instance, Ry Cooder released “Election Special” last month, an album which featured songs written from the point of view of a disillusioned poor white voter.

Speaking to The A.P., Mr. Newman said the topic was “delicate enough that I'm not going to offend people every which way” and added he was worried there may be backlash from conservatives.