Rewind: Singer-songwriter Randy Newman racked up 15 Oscar® nominations before he finally won in 2002 (for the loping big-band number "If I Didn't Have You," from Monsters, Inc.).
Fast-Forward: For his first new collection in nine years, Harps and Angels (Nonesuch), Newman gets autobiographical. "When I was a kid pitching in Little League, I walked four guys in a row and came off the mound crying," he says. "My dad told my wife that story the first time he met her, and again the second time. I wondered why, so I wrote a song about it." (It's called "Potholes.")
Play it Again: Despite his long list of film credits (including the soundtracks for Toy Story and Meet the Parents), Newman claims to have a slacker side. "My kids come home at night and I'll have hung out all day with the pool guy," he says.
He told us about the music that animates his downtime.
A Study in Frustration: The Fletcher Henderson Story, (Sony): "Before Duke Ellington, there was Fletcher Henderson. He'd have a tuba for a bass, three clarinets, banjo, guitar, pipe organ. His best work, like 'The Stampede,' is pre-swing, so it isn't dominated by a brass section. He's amazing—just one good idea after another."
The Essential George Jones (Sony): "I love him. He moves me. He was in tune before everyone was in tune, before they could correct your pitch in the studio. I don't like the 'up' stuff as much, but on ballads like 'He Stopped Loving Her Today,' he gets to the essence of the thing."
The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (Columbia): "He used to piss me off. My wife had this big picture of him over her bed when I was courting her. Right over her bed! But this is about as good as pop lyrics ever got."