Short People

"Short People" is a song by Randy Newman from his 1977 album, Little Criminals.

"Short People"
Short People - Randy Newman.jpg
Single by Randy Newman
from the album Little Criminals
B-side"Old Man On The Farm"
ReleasedNovember 1977
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Randy Newman
Producer(s)Lenny Waronker, Russ Titelman
Randy Newman singles chronology
"Short People"
"The Blues"

The verses and chorus are lyrically constructed as a prejudiced attack on short people. In contrast, the bridge states that "short people are just the same as you and I." Newman interprets the song to be about prejudice, as was widely thought, but added, "The guy in that song is crazy. He was not to be believed."[2] As with many of his songs such as "Rednecks", Newman wrote the song from the point of view of a biased narrator. The song was understood by many listeners to reflect Newman's personal viewpoint.

Production and receptionEdit

The song follows a basic musical formula with bass and drums centering on Newman's catchy pop piano line in the key of A major.[3] A small brass section and an electric guitar occasionally rise into the mix and conga drums (played by Los Angeles-based session musician Milt Holland) also feature prominently in the song.

Although Newman had never charted a single before, and his previous album, Good Old Boys, had been his third to reach the Billboard 200, "Short People" soon gained attention as a novelty song. The song consequently became a major hit on radio peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks; it was kept from reaching No. 1 by Player's "Baby Come Back" and the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive". It became a gold record.

Newman would later grow to dislike the song and its success, eventually calling it a "bad break", a "novelty record like The Chipmunks", and said it caused him to receive several threats regarding its misinterpreted message.[4] He said, "I had no idea that there was any sensitivity, I mean, that anyone could believe that anyone was as crazy as that character. To have that kind of animus against short people, and then to sing it and put it all in song and have a philosophy on it."[5] However, it ended up being included on almost every one of his greatest hits albums.[6][failed verification]

In 1978, the State of Maryland delegate Isaiah Dixon attempted to introduce legislation making it illegal to play "Short People" on the radio. He was advised by Assistant Attorney General Francis B. Burch that such a law would be a violation of the First Amendment.[7]

Appearances in popular cultureEdit

The song was performed by actor James Coco on a 1978 episode of The Muppet Show. Other television shows to feature the song include Ally McBeal; The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius; Doogie Howser, M.D.; The Cleveland Show; and The Simpsons.[citation needed]

A MADtv sketch parodying Newman's songwriting abilities also made references to the song.

The Side Street Ramblers performed a version of this song, in reference to the height difference between their lead and bass singers (5' and 6'5" respectively).[8]

In the film Semi-Pro, Will Ferrell sings the song on the bus. It is also featured in the 1994 feature-length adaptation of The Little Rascals.

This song is heard on a Toy Story sing-along cassette tape.[9]

In the film The Last Shot, Matthew Broderick and Alec Baldwin sing the song a capella style.[citation needed]

In The Office episode "Crime Aid", the song is mentioned when Darryl Philbin discusses a list of Michael Scott's favorite Bruce Springsteen songs: "Three were Huey Lewis and the News; one was Tracy Chapman, 'Fast Car'; and my personal favorite, 'Short People'".

In 2009, the song was parodied by conservative political satirist Paul Shanklin as "Old People" with Shanklin doing a voice impersonation of American President Barack Obama on the health care reform debate in the United States.

Andrew Hansen, an Australian satirical comedian, also performed this song on the comedy show Good News Week. Initially in the show he disclaimed the lyrics stating that he didn't hate short people—it was Randy Newman's lyrics (a reference to a skit he earlier participated in that questioned the legitimacy of charities for sick children and caused him, and his group The Chaser, to be temporarily suspended from television). Later in the show he performed the song again with his own lyrics referring to Adolf Hitler, Centrelink and popular television personalities including the show's host Paul McDermott.[10]

Chart performanceEdit


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Randy Newman: still biting, still brilliant | Arts & Culture | Music | spiked". November 6, 2015. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  2. ^ Fricke, David (September 15, 2017). "Randy Newman: My Life in 15 Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 28, 2020.
  3. ^ "Short People : Sheet Music". Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  4. ^ Zitz, Michael (September 18, 2003). "Songwriter Randy Newman hates his 'Short People'". The Free Lance–Star. Fredericksburg, Virginia. Archived from the original on July 11, 2012. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
  5. ^ Lydia Hutchinson. "Happy Birthday, Randy Newman". Performing Songwriter.
  6. ^ "Best of Randy Newman: Randy Newman: Music". Retrieved April 17, 2012.
  7. ^ Thompson, M. Dion (March 17, 2001). "They're smart, fast, usually right". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  8. ^ "Artists : Side Street Ramblers : digital music downloads". Niche Music Group. Archived from the original on August 1, 2013. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  9. ^ Disney's Toy Story Sing-alongs. OCLC 35802217.
  10. ^ "The Fantastic Leslie—Short People". YouTube. June 14, 2011. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
  11. ^ Steffen Hung. "Forum - 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  12. ^ " – Randy Newman – Short People" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved November 28, 2013.
  13. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  14. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  15. ^ " – Randy Newman – Short People". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved November 28, 2013.
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 174.
  17. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 1/28/78". Retrieved August 30, 2015.
  18. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  19. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1978/Top 100 Songs of 1978". Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  20. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles - 1978". Retrieved November 3, 2015.

External linksEdit