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Socal Songbook: Randy Newman's "I Love L.A."

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A City in Search of a Song

RANDY NEWMAN has made a career out of melodic skepticism and deadpan rhythm.

Newman sounded genuinely stunned the other day when he was told that this year is the 25th anniversary of “I Love L.A." “What is that? I don't believe it. I can't believe it. Can it really be a quarter of a century?"

There are few songs that echo in L.A. quite like Newman's winking civic anthem, which manages to be both sunny and subversive at the same time with its “big nasty redhead" cruising the boulevard. “Hey," Newman protested, “I meant 'nasty' in the very best sense of the word."

The song's small moments are sardonic, but the big ones are pure fun: It towers with 1980s ballpark synthesizers and then thumps its chest with a shout-along in the chorus: “I love L.A.! WE LOVE IT!" Like Newman's earlier hit “Short People," it remains a career- defining anthem no matter how big or deep his sophisticated songbook gets.

“I've tried at times to get rid of it, but I always take it back," the 64-year-old composer said. “There are other songs I have done that I think are more meaningful to me, but, hey, I'll take it. And I think people do get the irony of the song. Maybe not when they're driving 70 miles an hour down the freeway in a convertible or singing it at a playoff game. But they get the tone. People are smiling when they sing it, and I think they're smiling for the right reasons."

Look at that mountain

Look at those trees

Look at that bum over there, man

He's down on his knees

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