I've been his friend
since we were little babies.
I was a comfort to his mother,
a pal to his dad.
Before they passed away they said
"Take care of our Davy.
You may be the only friend he ever will have."
Davy the fat boy, Davy the fat boy,
Isn't he round? Isn't he round?
What do he weigh, folks?
Can you guess what he weigh?
You know it's only a quarter.
Win a teddy bear for the girlfriend
Or something for the wife.
You got to let this fat boy in your life!
I think we can persuade him to do
The famous fat boy dance for you.
Give me half a chance.
I just know you'll like my fat boy's dance.
Before the release of Randy Newman’s first eponymous album, the singer-songwriter field was limited in psychedelic music, a period that had been dominated by rock groups. Yes, there had been Bob Dylan, Donovan, and Paul Simon (as well as few others not mentioned in these pages) on the pop charts, but in the psychedelic aesthetic, the three aforementioned predominated and had developed from folk music, not rock. Randy Newman would later be known for a boogie-woogie style, but in his first efforts he was frequently writing sophisticated experimental theater music with gestures toward classical orchestration, much like his friend Van Dyke Parks (whose first album will be reviewed later). He seemed to be creating, especially in songs like Davy the Fat Boy, a kind of music referred to by German Romantics as lieder. The singer-songwriter aesthetic, which stressed authenticity, would soon develop into one of the alternatives (along with progressive and hard rock) that art pop art took immediately following the decline of psychedelia. But Randy Newman was too ironic / satiric to be “authentic”, as was Van Dyke Parks. Newman still had that psychedelic edge, the impetus to create an alternate (theatrical) reality through sometimes complex composition rather than bare his soul outright.
Davy the Fat Boy is a mini-suite that begins with a long unrhymed introduction accompanied by piano with orchestral accents, which explains that Davy had been adopted by the singer after Davy’s parents died. Then it falls into a tight boogie-woogie, as the singer reveals that he has taken the son of his friends and made a freak of him at the county fair so as to bring in an income. The orchestra begins warming up to another tune as the singer persuades Davy to do his “fat boy dance” for the gathered audience. There follows a slow, sweet and sad orchestral piece both ridiculous (given the image) and sublime (given the beauty of the music). After a refrain that shares the orchestral mood, in closing the song suddenly reverts to the boogie-woogie that originally went with the refrain’s words, and there follows a quick fade.