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Randy Newman’s Story of the Great Flood

The introductory panel of Randy Newman’s song about the greatest river flood in American history says that the water breached 145 levees, flooded 17 million acres of farmland and killed 250 people. The photos are amazing. Here Aaron Neville and India Arie sing the song during what appears to be a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Newman may have had some family pressure to produce:

Newman comes from a renowned musical family. His uncle, Lionel Newman (1916-1989), scored the music for Love Me Tender and North to Alaska, conducted the music for Alien and Breaking Away, and won an Oscar for Hello Dolly. Another uncle, Emil Newman (1911-1984), composed the music for Island in the SkyRiot in Juvenile Prison, and Unwed Mother.

His most famous uncle, though, was Alfred Newman (1901-1970), who won nine Oscars for his movie music. He composed the soundtrack for All About EveThe Grapes of WrathHow Green Was My Valley, the 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame (starring Charles Laughton), Twelve O’Clock High, and Wuthering Heights. He also wrote perhaps the most famous movie music of all time, the “20th Century Fox Fanfare” — the stirring drum-and-bugle call that plays over the logo as that studio’s films begin.

Louisiana 1927 of course isn’t the type of song for which Newman is known. Here are Short People, I Love LA (performed at the Laker ring ceremony in 2002) and, in a nice duet with Lyle Lovett, You’ve Got a Friend in Me. Newman has just released a song that makes his political leanings pretty obvious.

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Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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