Mentioning Randy Newman‘s “Rednecks” is pretty much verboten these days because the lyrics repeatedly use the “n” word. But it’s worth recalling that the song, released on a 1974 Newman album called “Good Old Boys,” was inspired by an incident that happened on the Dick Cavett Show on 12.18.70.
A 12.19.70 N.Y. Times story reported that Gov. Lester Maddox of Georgia “walked out of a taping of the Dick Cavett Show in a huff last night after demanding that the host of the program apologize for a remark about Mr. Maddox’s white supporters.
“Mr. Cavett was paraphrasing a question asked during a break in the show by Jim Brown, the black actor, who wanted to know if Governor Maddox had ‘any trouble with the white bigots because of all the things you did for blacks.’ On the air, Mr. Cavett substituted ‘admirers’ for ‘bigots.’ The Governor, saying the implication was that his supporters were bigots, demanded an apology.
“’If I called any of your admirers bigots who are not bigots, I apologize,’ Mr. Cavett said.
“Mr. Maddox rose and, after another exchange, left the stage with 10 minutes of the program remaining.”
Newman’s lyrics changed things around somewhat:
“Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show” — check.
“With some smart-ass New York Jew” — Cavett is a witty Midwestern gentile with a dry sense of humor.
“And the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox” — Cavett never explicitly laughed at Maddox.
“And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too” — true.