While your kids may know him as the man behind music for recent box office hits The Princess and the Frog and Toy Story 3, you may remember him for his catchy tunes from the 70s and 80s that feature Newman's piano playing and rapier wit. Before Newman became a venerable film composer for movies like The Natural and Sea Biscuit, he was writing caustic tales with Short People being among his most famous. (I preferred The Story of a Rock & Roll Band about ELO, though. Ironically, years later Jeff Lynne would go on to produce Newman).
It's probably a good bet that movie songs like Toy Story's You've Got a Friend In Me will be featured on the set list alongside his non score favorites such as Dixie Flyer, It's Money That I Love, Sail Away, and I Think It's Going to Rain Today. Newman also has written songs made popular by others such as Three Dog Night's Momma Told Me Not To Come and Joe Cocker's You Can Leave Your Hat On.
Like most revered musicians, Newman is multifaceted. He can write a sweet melody for a kid's movie and also pen a satirical lyric spoken from a character's point of view that leaves the listener unsure of its true intent. He is also not shy about writing songs that are both funny and emotionally telling like I Want You to Hurt Like I Do. All of these types of songs, however, come off completely honest and sincere. Newman has never been a comprised popular artist and has the affable means to do things his way and still seem approachable and be funny.
Last month, Newman picked up the Emmy for Original Music and Lyrics for When I'm Gone, written for the Monk finale. In November, he will tackle another form of entertainment - the stage - when his musical Harps and Angels will premiere in Los Angeles featuring Spinal Tap's own David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean). Taking its title from the 2008 Newman album of the same name, the production is described as an "honest and humorous commentary on what it is like to be born, grow up, fall in love and live and die in America." In addition to the new material, other Newman songs' featured in the production will be Louisiana 1927, Feels Like Home, and I Love L.A.
When asked recently by The Hollywood Reporter if he liked writing for a full orchestra, Newman gave an enthusiastic yes. "The days with the orchestra are the best time I have, period. They're some of the best musicians in the world," said Newman. " And if I didn't work as a composer for movies, I couldn't play in the same room with them. But waving a stick, I can do it. It's not like a power trip or anything, it's just being able to make music with them."
The combination of the grandeur of his scores mixed with the larger than life characters he creates in his pop records seems to be a perfect mix for the orchestra. Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt will be at the helm and has always been successful when combining popular artists with the orchestra. In Newman's case, however, there shouldn't be much of a leap. Here's hoping he does the underrated Something Special off Land of Dreams; it would sound great with the orchestra.
The show begins at 8:00 P.M., and tickets to see the Grammy, Academy, and Emmy-winning artist are available at the Kentucky Center For the Arts box office.