Randy Newman has released a swooning, lyrically wicked new cut, “I’m Dreaming,” that finds the songwriter stepping into the shoes of a narrator who’s “dreaming of a white President/ Someone whom we can understand/ Someone who knows where we’re coming from.” The track is available now as a free download, and Newman is encouraging listeners to donate to the United Negro College Fund.
A startling satire reminiscent of some of his earlier cuts like “Rednecks” and “Political Science” – which took on racism and American jingoism, respectively, through the lenses of less-than-reliable narrators – Newman told Slate in a recent interview that his new song’s speaker “has no case at all, just some vague pseudo-scientific theories that no doubt sound good to him but are nonsense.
“[F]or me it’s a reaction to the Republican Party, which seems to have drifted farther to the right than a major party has drifted in my lifetime in any direction,” added Newman. “It seems to have become almost a radical party. The hate and . . . I don’t think it’ll last. That kind of thing doesn’t seem to last.”
Musically, the chorus of the track purposefully recalls Irving Berlin’s famous carol “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” Though Newman says he didn’t necessarily have Berlin or the song’s original performer, Bing Crosby, in mind when he wrote it, he noted he was possibly thinking of “the America they represent.”
Newman noted how the song was partially inspired by the racial undercurrents he saw in the intense vitriol directed at Barack Obama during his presidency. “Still, it’s clear that there are lots of people out there who are uncomfortable [with a black president],” he said. “The Civil War was a long time ago, but there are aspects of it that remain unsettled, I think. Early on in Obama’s term, there was heat generated by issues that you wouldn’t think would cause such passion. Even the term ‘Obamacare,’ the way it’s spit out, like he was some kind of witch doctor. Maybe I’m overly sensitive to the issue, but I don’t think so. There’s an edge to things that normally wouldn’t have an edge. I thought it was a little extra.”