Though he perhaps was most famous during the 1960s and 1970s for writing quirky, darkly funny, or sharply satirical songs that often painted vivid portraits detailing the foibles and lives of lifelike characters, there is much more to Randy Newman's music than humor or novelty. Stylistically, his music runs the gamut from classically influenced film scores to R&B-type pop to haunting ballads and, most of all, to his upbeat, subtly orchestrated shuffling amalgam of New Orleans jazz and ragtime. Though his output of recorded music is somewhat sporadic, owing largely to his innate perfectionism, Newman has had a great effect on pop music and those influenced by him include Lyle Lovett, Paul Simon, and Mark Knopfler. Newman's contributions to film scoring have also been large and, in 1995, he received Oscar nominations for Best Song and Best Original Musical or Comedy Score for his work in Toy Story (1995).
Newman was born in Los Angeles, during WWII. At the time, his father was overseas serving as an army captain in Italy and Newman's childhood was punctuated by numerous moves throughout the South, where his mother's family and closest friends lived. He was most influenced by the time he spent with his mother's family in New Orleans. Musically, one of his greatest influences was the compositions of his uncle Alfred Newman, one of cinema's finest and most highly regarded film scorists. His two other uncles, Lionel and Emil, were also noted composers. As a boy, Newman frequently visited the soundstages where his uncle worked.