I was glancing through a not-very-interesting book on pop music, a while back, and thought that it did have a reasonably good summary description of Randy Newman.
It called him the “master of the unreliable narrator” and pointed out that essentially every Randy Newman song is in the voice of someone other than him.
Some of his songs are sympathetic (“Rednecks”, surprisingly), others are satirical (“Political Science”), but they almost always create a fictional character for the purpose of the song.
It then talked about how, when people get Randy Newman wrong it is usually by taking his songs to literally, e.g., “Short People.” Finally it gave, as another example, Old Man saying that it was a satire of prejudice, like “Short People,” about “ageism.”
That seems obviously crazy. “Old Man” is one of my favorite Randy Newman songs because it is so emotionally direct, a remarkably tender song about comforting a dying relative.
I am curious, however, if you think the voice of the song is Randy Newman’s? I have always assumed that it is, but if so it is a remarkably intimate song by a singer who is almost never revealing.
Won’t be no God to comfort you
You taught me not to believe that lie
You don’t need anybody
Nobody needs you
Don’t cry, old man, don’t cry