Harvard mathematician Tom Lehrer had the chutzpah to make a song out of every tabu subject you can think of: the arms race leading to death by atomic bomb (“We Will All Go Together When We Go”), BDSM sex (“The Masochist Tango”), the Catholic church (“The Vatican Rag”), racism (“National Brotherhood Week”), Nazi scientists (“Wernher von Braun”), the Boy Scouts (“Be Prepared”), herpes (“I Got It From Agnes”), and the composition that must win the Nerd’s World Cup hands-down, the Periodic Table of Elements set to music.
Tom Lehrer’s music became quite popular during the 1950s, but by 1965 he stopped performing because he allegedly grew bored of singing the same songs again and again.
Singing two of former the good doctor’s songs at a high school assembly got me, an honor student, sent to the Principal’s office and put on probation. This had the opposite effect of what the administration likely hoped.
I love his smart, irreverent humor still. If you aren’t yet familiar with it, I’m very pleased to be the person who’s about to ruin you. (Grateful thank-yous involving chocolate or bad puns always accepted.)
Happy 84th birthday, Prof. Dr. Lehrer.*
And thank you.
Click on the following links for videos or audios of TL performing:
Here are a bunch more lyrics.
1) *His dual career was surely fated: Lehrer means “teacher” in German.
2) I have no idea why WordPress won’t let the links appear as embedded videos. I’ve scoured the forums and done everything they suggested, but no luck. I guess I’m still a technopeasant. Or perhaps Coyote is in charge of the cybergods. WordPress gurus, consider this the Bat Signal for help! Sigh.
3) Thank you to the fabulous Julie James for making me aware of this most auspicious day.