‘‘I did with Vietnam,’’ the multiple Grammy, Emmy and Oscar-winner points out, referring to his elegiac yet fierce Song For The Dead.

‘‘I wrote about that when it was safe to do so, though I’m satisfied with what I wrote. I don’t know [about the Trump songs]. He is a difficult sort of case. He’s an easy target, there’s so much material. I wrote this song when Obama was president, and damn if it didn’t come true. It was a song called I’m Dreaming Of A White President [he starts singing], ‘I’m dreaming of a white president/Just like the ones we’ve always had/A real live white man/Who knows the score/How to handle money or start a war/Wouldn’t even have to tell me what we were fighting for/He’d be the right man/ If he were a …’.’’

To paraphrase Tom Lehrer, an argument could be made that the craziness of the world has all but killed satire. Some of us didn’t agree with that sentiment when Lehrer said it 50 years ago as the bombers of Cambodia, Nixon and Kissinger, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Now, in our divisive cultural and political climate, does it really matter that there are easy targets? We still need satire even when satire is made flesh, surely?

‘‘It’s got to go both ways,’’ Newman, who was this week nominated for a Golden Globe for his original score for Marriage Story, says. ‘‘There is the genuine reaction against women being oppressed for 5000 years going on now, but there is the occasional silliness involved in it and you should be able to write about that, but I don’t think you can.

‘‘I’ve seen comedy routines and stuff that made fun of things, but maybe this is not the time for it. You can’t do it, and it bothers me. The big thing is that of course the oppression has to end, but I don’t like anything when you can’t talk about it.’’

If we held to the idea there are some things you can’t talk about or mock, Newman’s career would have been severely curtailed. No Short People and Davy The Fat Boy, no slave trader in Sail Away or the tanned ‘‘aggressive ignorance’’ in I Love L.A.

‘‘I’ve written characters that often are not nice people, like the president is not a nice person. And I need the audience to know this guy is an ass, like the guy in My Life Is Good [where the supremely smug narrator is a songwriter who, among other things, brings back a Mexican girl ‘who cleans the hallway /She cleans the stairs … she does the laundry too/She wrote this song for me’ and then, after meeting Bruce Springsteen one evening, is asked by him ‘Rand, I’m tired/How would you like to be the Boss for a while?’

‘‘I even thought that in You Can Leave Your Hat On, that guy was more impotent than how Tom Jones or Joe Cocker do him. They were right, it turned out.’’

The jury may still be out on that one. For some of us the cockiness of those interpretations undercut the hard, low punch of Newman’s lyrics of a desperate man who blurts out ‘‘you give me reason to live’’ to the stripper before him. One of the recurring elements in these characters is they are weak people. They may bluster and swagger but … ‘‘they lack self knowledge’’? Newman completes the sentence. Indeed, which may well bring us back to Trump and Putin, and other insecure men.

‘‘They did it so happy,’’ Newman says of the Cocker and Jones versions. ‘‘And I thought, God, Joe Cocker has sex differently than I do maybe.’’

Anyway, while Newman is known to one or two generations for writing about the worst people, there’s a generation who know him for writing about the best in people. A generation for whom You’ve Got A Friend In Me and We Belong Together in Toy Story, If I Didn’t Have You in Monsters, Inc, and the soundtracks to many others, such as James And The Giant Peach and Babe: Pig In The City, mean far more.

Randy Newman in 1978.

Randy Newman in 1978.Credit:Warner Bros Records

Is it easier to write about good people?

‘‘I think it’s easier to write a song like You’ve Got A Friend or the one from Parenthood, I Love to See You Smile,’’ Newman says.

‘‘I’m grateful when I get a chance to be like, normal, when it takes me to something people might actually like. The middle of the road to some extent, and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense.

‘‘My stuff is sort of convoluted: it’s in character, and I’ve got to explain that if people don’t know. It’s nice to be able to say you’ve got a friend, you got a friend in me, and not sound like a used car salesman.’’

It’s understandable why that might appeal, at least for a break. I’m glad I write songs like that but only on assignment; I can’t seem to do it for myself.’’

Does he have a theory for this anomaly?

‘‘I’m generally more interested in aberrancies, people that are a little off. For me it has more going on. It might be shyness, who knows,’’ he says, pauses, and then laughs.

‘‘No, I don’t think so, I’m not shy. I can’t remember when I was.’’

An Evening With Randy Newman is at the State Theatre on February 4.

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