How are composers Randy and Thomas Newman related?

Composers Randy Newman and Thomas Newman are up against each other for an Original Score Oscar this year, but they're just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to their family's musical Oscars successes.

Published: January 27, 2020 at 12:15 pm

One look at this year’s Oscar nominations for Original Score and you’ll notice two members of the same family up against one another – Thomas Newman and Randy Newman.


The composing cousins are nominated for their work on 1917 and Marriage Story, respectively and it’s just the latest in a string of nominations, In fact, Randy has a second nomination this year for his song from Toy Story 4.

Randy already has two Academy Awards on the shelf, both for Original Song (Monsters Inc’s ‘If I Didn’t Have You’ and Toy Story 3’s ‘We Belong Together’), while Thomas is yet to pick up a statue, despite receiving 15 nominations over the years.

Thomas has carved himself an enviable career in film music, becoming one of the most in-demand and recognisable artists in the medium.

He has written for some of the most critically acclaimed, and popular, films of the last 20+ years – American Beauty, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Finding Nemo, Skyfall… all him.

'Dead Already' from American Beauty (Thomas Newman)

Randy Newman was originally better known as one of America’s great singer-songwriters, a musical poet of the highest order, and then one of its most familiar film composers - Awakenings, Parenthood, Pleasantville, Toy Story, Meet the Fockers... all him.

Generations have come to love his music, thanks to an enduring creative partnership with the animation studio, Pixar.

'Andy's Birthday' from Toy Story (Randy Newman)

They belong to a family with deep roots in Hollywood music-making which stretches right back to its earliest days.

Thomas’s father was the great film composer and conductor Alfred Newman, who reigned at Twentieth Century Fox as music director for some 20 years (indeed it was he who composed the studio’s iconic fanfare).

Newman senior built a formidable music department for Fox, nurturing the talents of musicians and composers (including John Williams), writing many scores (such as The Diary of Anne Frank and The Grapes of Wrath) and overseeing the music of numerous others.

Alfred Newman himself won nine Oscars, some for his own music, others for music direction – such as that which he won for The King and I.

'Overture' from The Diary of Anne Frank (Alfred Newman)

A similar win came a little over a decade later for Alfred’s brother Lionel, was also heavily involved in the music department at Fox.

A composer, too, Lionel would work at the studio for over 40 years; starting as a rehearsal pianist, he went on to become the musical director for television and the vice president of music overall.

He shared an Oscar for his work on the film version of Hello Dolly, but wrote original scores for films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Love Me Tender).

Lionel’s other brother, Emil, was also a gifted conductor, music director and composer. Oscar-nominated, Emil wrote dozens of film score in the ’40s and ’50s.

Aside from Thomas, Alfred Newman’s two other children, David and Maria, are talented and very present members of musical life in the US and beyond.

David Newman is a sought-after conductor and gifted composer, who has lately been seen on the podium in both the US and Europe.

He has regularly conducted the popular Hollywood in Vienna series of concerts in the Austrian capital and is regularly seen, of late, sharing the podium with John Williams at Tanglewood and the Hollywood Bowl.

Also Oscar-nominated (for the animated film Anastasia), David has penned scored for popular movies like The Nutty Professor, Galaxy Quest and Ice Age.

'The Royal Ball' from Anastasia (David Newman)

Maria Newman has composed well over 100 concert works and is a talented musician in her own right, performing and recording all over the world. She is the composer-in-residence with the Malibu Coast Music Festival.

Like Randy Newman, Joey Newman is a cousin of Alfred Newman’s children. One of the youngest musical stars of the family, Joey (Lionel’s grandson) has very much followed in the family’s footsteps. As a composer, conductor and arranger, he is very much active in film and television music today; indeed, he composed the music for the Oscar-nominated short film Adam and Dog (2012).

Between them, the Newman family have over 90 Oscar nominations and some 13 wins. Will that increase this year? We’ll find out on 8 February…


1917 is in cinemas now and Thomas Newman’s original score is available from Sony Classical. Marriage Story is streaming now on Netflix and Randy Newman’s original score is available from Lakeshore Records.


Michael BeekReviews Editor, BBC Music Magazine

Michael is the Reviews Editor of BBC Music Magazine. He was previously a freelance film music journalist and spent 15 years at St George's Bristol. Michael specialises in film and television music and was the Editor of He has written for the BBC Proms, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood in Vienna and Silva Screen Records.

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