Known for his satirical songs and their unreliable narrators, Randy Newman has released what may be his least untrustworthy, most reliably narrated number ever: “Stay Away,” a short tune he put on social media at the behest of a radio station that had asked him to weigh in on life during the coronavirus crisis.
“I’ve been asked by KPCC [a public radio talk station in Pasadena] to say some words about social distancing, because of my scientific background,” he says at the start of the clip, adding that “apparently there’s some disease that’s going around. Stay six feet away from people, wash your hands religiously and often, and don’t touch your face.”
And then Newman sets those sentiments to song — a love song, of sorts — that looks forward to all the things that can happen after the pandemic eases up (automobile purchases, for wanton cruising down Imperial Highway, presumably) while reiterating the things that can’t happen now (skin contact, even among intimates). An unseen dog offers quiet support from near the piano, human/canine contact being a safer bet.
It is not the most tightly or classically structured song Newman has ever put out in his five-decade-plus career, but it will strike a chord among shut-in listeners. And although he is probably in no danger of joining the ranks of exclusively confessional songwriters, the reference to having been with a “Venus in sweatpants” for “30 years together” (the length of time Newman has been wed) does seem to reaffirm that he is writing out of character here. Newman even offers a PSA of sorts as an addendum.
“I wish everyone well, and wish myself well, to some extent,” he says at song’s conclusion. “Stay safe. It’s hard for Americans that don’t like being told what to do at all. But in this case, let’s do it, and we’ll be all right.”