Randy Newman: My Life in 15 Songs

Here's how a comic genius built one of American music's greatest catalogs

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"Sail Away"

There was a producer, the husband of [actress] Leslie Caron. He wanted to make a movie where he would give ten minutes to these artists – people like Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, me – to do anything we wanted. It never got made. But I had this idea of a slave ship and a sea shanty – this guy standing in a clearing, singing to a crowd of natives. These people in my songs don't know they're bad. They think they're fine. I didn't just want to say, "Slavery is awful." It's too easy. I wasn't doing Roots. I knew Bobby Darin pretty well. He covered this [in 1972], but he was such a musical guy that he missed the point. He was like, "Little one, come to America." Etta James did it, and I guarantee she knew what it was about, absolutely.

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