Friday, July 20, 2007

'I don't care about anyone's feelings'

It is more than 30 years since Randy Newman wrote Political Science. Yet in the past few weeks the song has been quoted everywhere from Baghdad to London to Washington as a musical interpretation of American foreign policy, a satirical masterpiece and a dire warning of plans for global annihilation.
"No one likes us/I don't know why/We may not be perfect/But heaven knows we try/All around even our old friends put us down/Let's drop the big one and see what happens," sings Newman in the distinctive voice that a critic once described as sounding like a "frightened bison". "Asia's crowded/Europe's too old/Africa's far too hot/And Canada's too cold".
Last month, an imam at a mosque in Baghdad quoted the song as evidence of American intentions. And now it appears - along with other Newman standards such as Rednecks, Sail Away, You Can Leave Your Hat On, God's Song and I Think It's Going to Rain Today - on a new collection of his work, The Randy Newman Songbook. For anyone who has never heard his work, it is a perfect introduction to one of America's finest and most original songwriters.
He is intrigued with the way that Political Science has returned to prominence. "There is a strain in the country, a frontier, isolationist, aggressive kind of ignorance that wants to forget about the rest of the world. They don't quite want to blow up London or Paris, but they don't want to help anyone or deal with it."
The song had been written in 1970, he says, before people of vaguely that persuasion took power. "It was pre-Reagan, and even Reagan, in retrospect, wasn't that far to the right in many ways. The right to me means, 'We're not going to help people who might need help.' They might deny this and say, 'Do you think we have no hearts? Do you think we don't care?' and I would say, 'Yeah, I do think that.'
"This administration has come closer to saying things like, 'Europe's too old.' The stupidities and exaggerations of that song are still exaggerations, but the way Donald Rumsfeld talks and Paul Wolfowitz talks is like breaking the rules. Somehow, with Reagan and Nixon, there was an understanding that you don't say things like, 'We don't need France and Germany... we have the new Europe: Bulgaria, Poland and Lithuania.' They may have thought things like that and done bad things secretly, but they didn't say that." ( more from gardian)

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