Short People by Randy Newman (Warner Bros, 1978)

I took things very literal as a kid. You tend to when you’re 6. But I truly thought this song was about other kids and not me. I compared myself to other kids my age and I thought, ‘ you’re shorter than me. he’s talking about you’. Even so, thinking about short people having no reason to live, made me laugh because that was so far-fetched, like an exaggerated joke. I wonder why adults got so amped up about this song. ‘That Randy Newman hates midgets. What a jerk. Let’s ban the song.” Which they tried legally to do in Maryland, but was never passed. Your tax dollars at work, folks. Hard to imagine nowadays the way irony is worn like a Williamsburg hipster wears a scarf in July.

Randy was hardly new to the scene when this was released. He had been writing songs for others and had bands cover his tunes (Three Dog Night, Mama Told Me Not To Come) when he released his 6th album, Little Criminals, in 1977. He was known for slipping into character and singing from other’s point of view, so I’m sure why everyone took this one so seriously. He goes out of his way to talk about their ‘little noses, tiny little teeth’ wearing ‘platform shoes on their tiny little feet’ and no one stops to say, aww he’s just being silly, like I did, me, the six-year old.

In fact he was making the point of how stupid prejudice is by saying that ‘he’ doesn’t want short people round here because, well, they’re short. Apply that concept to skin color rather than height and you get what I mean. This is satire folks, not a novelty song. This isn’t in the same league as Steve Martin’s King Tut yet it was labeled as such.

This song peaked at #2, kept out of the top spot by the Bee Gees Stayin Alive. Randy knows all about being a bridesmaid: he was Oscar nominated 15 times before winning and has won twice out of 20 nominations.

It’s a wonderful world!

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1 Comment

  1. Nice! I wondered how this song had been recieved. I hear about it in an podcast interview with power-pop singer-songwriter Mike Viola. He tells he showed it to his daughter in the day of her mid-school graduation, and that she was pissed!

    Reply

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