After a career spent ironically inveighing against short people, Randy Newman has a new, non-ironic enemy: COVID-19. You’ve got a friend in Randy, it appears, only if you practice proper social distancing.
LA independent radio station KPCC asked Newman to record a public service announcement encouraging people to social distance and wash their hands to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He did them one better, recording a new song incorporating those sentiments.
“Apparently there’s some disease that’s going around,” Newman cracks at the outset of the video after dryly claiming that he’d been recruited for the role because of his “scientific background.”
Newman softened some of his sharper edges when he became the de facto house composer for Pixar; “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” might just be the most wholesome song ever recorded. But in his other work, he’s known for his cutting, witty, sarcastic lyrics. A situation in which the best thing you can do for your loved one is staying away is a situation tailormade for his style.
The song, which Newman recorded at home on an electronic keyboard, doesn’t disappoint. “Venus in sweatpants, that’s who you are,” he begins. “And when this mess is over, I’ll buy you a car” so that they can leave her “stupid friends” behind. The piano starts rollicking, and Newman sings, “Stay away from me, words of love in times like these.”
It ends, appropriately for a guy whose body of work is full of songs written for kids, with a message about them: “If the kids are frightened, tell them not to be afraid. Don’t let ’em touch your face. Don’t let ’em touch your face.”