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Happy Birthday, Tom Lehrer April 10, 2012

Filed under: Arts,Singing — BrujaHa @ 12:18 am
Tags: , , , , ,

  This post is a celebration of irreverent creativity.

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:

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park

Masochism Tango

I Hold Your Hand In Mine

Be Prepared

We Will All Go Together When We Go

The Vatican Rag

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.


16 Responses to “Happy Birthday, Tom Lehrer”

  1. hahabuda Says:

    My first blog post for HAHABUDA was on him. He’s far too unknown for how genius he is.

  2. Ah, always been a fan. “And I’m learning Chinese!” says Werner von Braun…

  3. kgoess Says:

    Tom FTW!

  4. Marvin Bundren (facebook link) Says:

    One of the all time great warped minds of the 20th. And by the way, Coyote isn’t the one in charge. he just runs P.R. Loki is the one yer after. I hear Anansi is his number 2.

  5. Hans Gruenig (facebook link) Says:

    So which songs did you get in trouble for singing? 🙂

  6. Margarita Capps (facebook link) Says:

    I do a whole Poisoning Pigeons presentation for Spring in my classroom each year. LOVE TL!

  7. Tina Fields Says:

    Margarita, I meant, what’s the subject you’re teaching, & how does PP help with that?

    • Margarita Capps (facebook link) Says:

      As part of our poetry unit, it demonstrates alliteration, rhyme, imagery, as well as other elements. I made a PPT to coincide with the song. We then do the same with other poems as a way to kindly explicate them It helps students truly understand poems in a deeper way. It’s also a lot of fun. Another activity they enjoy is poetry poker. Both activities sort of liberate students and encourage their own creativity. Middle school language arts can be brutal, so I try to make it fun and interactive.

  8. Birrell Walsh (facebook link) Says:

    Bless Tina for celebrating The Teacher!

  9. tor4hershman Says:

    Good thing you didn’t sing the wrong two of mine or you’d of been sent to the Inquisition.
    Tom Lehrer is a highly regarded favorite of moi’s.

  10. Jamie Mitges Says:

    Tom Lehrer is a multi-talented guy, singer-songwriter, satirist, pianist, and mathematician. He has lectured on mathematics and musical theater .. Happy Birthday recording artist

  11. Alicia Cady Says:

    An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been doing a little research on this. And he actually bought me lunch due to the fact that I discovered it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to talk about this topic here on your website.

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