The Princess and the Frog. Cars. Monsters, Inc. A Bug’s Life. James and the Giant Peach. Toy Story 1, 2, and 3. Babe. If you know these movies, then you know Randy, because his songs are in all of them! (And you can click on the titles to see their Jewish stars!)
Songs like: “Almost There,” “Down in New Orleans,” “Our Town,” “When She Loved Me,” “That’ll Do.” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” and “I Love to See you Smile.” Why did we list those? Because Randy was nomimated for an Oscar for all of them! He finally won it for “If I Didn’t Have You,” from Monsters, Inc., after being nominated 17 times!
But this is what Randy mostly does now— write songs and soundtracks for animated movies. The other kinds of movies he writes songs for tend to take place in the early half of the Twentieth Century, like from 1900 to 1950, or even earlier. These movies include Maverick, Ragtime, Leatherheads, Seabiscuit, The Natural, Pleasantville, Awakenings and Avalon (click the titles to see their Jewish stars). We put those in that order because that’s the order their stories are set in, histrorically… although Avalon really goes through a couple of generations. Randy likes that old-fashioned music, with clarinets, trombones and banjoes.
And then sometimes, Randy will do the soundtrack for a regular comedy set today. He did the music for messed-up-family movies like Parenthood and the Meet the Parents movies… the media-business The Paper, and the what-if-an-angel-showed-up-today movie Michael, written and directed by Nora Ephron. Randy even did the music for Gotcha!, an under-rated film about a college student who likes to play the Assassination Game (it’s like Cops and Robbers, but with paint guns) and is so good at it, he is recruited by a real spy! (ER's Anthony Edwards stars in that.)
But wait! All of this movie music is only the second act of Randy’s amazing career. Before that, he was writing hits for some of the biggest acts of the 1970s, like Ray Charles, Judy Collins, Peggy Lee, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, Joe Cocker, The Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstadt… everyone from Pat Boone to Nina Simone.
One act that had a hit with a Randy song was called Three Dog Night. See, on cold nights, farmers had their dogs sleep on the covers to keep warm in bed, more dogs the colder it was. A very cold night was a “three-dog night”!
Randy’s songs have popped up in many movies, which may be one way Hollywood started asking him to write original material for the screen. Or maybe it was the fact that three of his uncles and two of his cousins were also film composers!
Randy has been on TV a bunch of times, never playing a character, though, and usually playing piano, which he is very good at. Well, In one silly movie, Three Amigos, Randy plays the part of a singing bush. Yes, a bush that sings! Like we said, it’s a very silly movie.
Where Randy does act is in his songs. He often takes the character of a jerk, like someone materialistic (who likes things more than people) or even bigotted and racist, to make fun of those attitudes. One song that got him in trouble was “Short People,” in which he pretended not to like short people! But people took him literally and got mad at him, not at the prejudiced people he was making fun of. That happens to Randy a lot.
Then, sometimes, Randy writes about his own life, growing up Jewish in L.A. and New Orleans. One time, he was asked to a dance by a girl, only to have her call and cancel because he was not allowed to go to that country club since he was Jewish. Yup! Even in America.
One of his songs, “I Love L.A.” is about a jerk who likes driving around in his convertible in the sunshine… and that’s it. But it is such a fun song, it’s been used in commercials and even by the L.A. Dodgers, who play it over the loudspeakers when they win! Speaking of baseball, one of his songs, “Burn On,” is about Cleveland, and it was used in the movie Major League, about the Cleveland Indians team.
Randy’s songs are often about places, too. His song “Louisiana 1927,” was about a flood there in that year; it was played a lot after Hurricane Katrina flooded that state again in 2005 to express how sad that was. But another one of his songs, “Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear,” was performed on The Muppet Show, with Scooter as Simon Smith and Fozzie, of course, as the bear!
Randy’s albums are what are called “critical successes,” meaning that people who love music know about them, even if they don’t sell in the millions. Do you like some songs that are unknown or unpoular among your friends? Just wait until college…you’ll meet other people who know and like your music! We promise.
Randy started writing music professionally when he was only 17. He got a record contract and dropped out of college, which we do not recommend… unless you do have that record contract first.
Aside from his Oscar, Randy has Emmys and Grammys. He is in the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and is has written so many Disney hits he won a Disney Legend award! No Tony yet, although Randy did write a musical based on a classic story about a guy who sells his soul to the devil, called Faust. Also, someone made a musical out of Randy’s songs like they did with Abba's songs for Mama Mia. Well, probably not much like Mama Mia!
When the next big animated movie comes out, see if Randy wrote the songs. We bet he did!
Randy is not the first Jewish composer to write hit sonsg for Disney films. Before him came the Jewish words-and-music team of Howard Ashman and Alan Mencken, who did the songs in The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin.
But before them were the Sherman brothers, Robert and Richard, who wrote the songs for The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, The Aristocats and both Winnie the Pooh and The Tigger Movie. They also did the songs for the non-toon Parent Trap and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang... and two movies that mixed live action and animation: Mary Poppins (they won two Oscars for that) and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Oh, and they wrote "It's a Small World After All!" Their non-Disney kid-movie work includes Snoopy, Come Home and the original toon version of Charlotte's Web.
Their work has won an award in Moscow and was requested to be performed by the Queen of England! In 2008, they won the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor for art the US government gives, and they were given it by the president himself.
Outside their kids' work, the Shermans have scored a number of pop hits. "You're Sixteen" was a Top Ten hit when it was released in 1960... then again in a cover version (by Ringo Starr) 13 years later!