Song of the Day #1,047: ‘Memo to My Son’ – Randy Newman

In 1972, Randy Newman released Sail Away, his most enduring masterpiece. He’s done some amazing work in the 40 years since, but I can’t say he’s ever topped it.

The title track sets the stage beautifully. Against a majestic piano tune and soaring strings, Newman sings America’s praises from the perspective of a slave trader. “Ain’t no lions or tigers ain’t no mamba snake, just the sweet watermelon and the buckwheat cake.
Everybody is as happy as a man can be. Climb aboard little wog, sail away with me.”

This album perfectly embodies the dichotomy in Newman’s work that I’m playing up over the next two weeks. Early on the album, Newman sings the gentle ballad ‘He Gives Us All His Love,’ a prayer played straight. But album closer ‘God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)’ is a vicious indictment of religion.

‘Dayton, Ohio 1903’ is a sweet and slight song about a time when “the air was clean and you could see and folks were nice to you.” But ‘Burn On’ takes a skewed look at another Ohio city, painting a portrait of Cleveland lit up by the fire on the Cuyahoga River.

‘Memo to My Son’ is a rolling lullaby written for Neman’s infant son. It’s charming and cute and a stark contrast to another Sail Away song about a father and son that I’ll highlight a week from today. Stay tuned.

What have you done to the mirror?
What have you done to the floor?
Can’t I go nowhere without you?
Can’t I leave you alone any more?

I know you don’t think much of me
But someday you’ll understand
Wait’ll you learn how to talk, baby
I’ll show you how smart I am

A quitter never wins
A winner never quits
When the going gets tough
The tough get going

Maybe you don’t know how to walk, baby
Maybe you can’t talk none either
Maybe you never will, baby
But I’ll always love you
I’ll always love you

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,047: ‘Memo to My Son’ – Randy Newman

  1. Dana says:

    Very good song from a great album. However, I’m not so sure he didn’t top himself with more recent efforts.

  2. Amy says:

    I don’t know if this songs fits as nicely into your planned theme this week as others in his canon. When he sings, “Maybe you can’t talk none either,” I can’t help but laugh.

    I look forward to its counterpart next week.

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