One of the little pleasures of growing older – and they are admittedly not numerous – is that you hold things in living memory that, as far as the hyperkinetic larvae who seem to be taking over the world these days are concerned, never even existed. One of these, for doddering old fossils such as your humble correspondent, is the musical satire of Tom Lehrer.

Tom Lehrer was a Harvard-trained mathematician who wrote and sang delightfully clever satirical and humorous songs, accompaning himself with considerable dexterity on the piano. He brought us such sweetly romantic numbers as “I Hold Your Hand in Mine” (sung by a lovestruck young man to the severed hand of his sweetheart), cheery little ditties like “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”, and some of the best political satire ever written, including “National Brotherhood Week”, “The Folk Song Army”, “Werner von Braun”, and “The Vatican Rag”. This is a man who also wrote a song consisting of the names of all the chemical elements, set to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Major General’s Song”.

Lehrer, who is furthermore credited with the invention of the Jell-O shot, left the scene in the late sixties, never, really, to return. He said at one point that the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger had made political satire obsolete. When asked recently if he might consider performing again he replied by asking “Oh, has Hell frozen over?”

Just yesterday I stumbled across a website dedicated to Lehrer, featuring MIDI arrangements of all of his songs, and thought I should mention him here for the benefit of those of you who might never have heard of this gifted humorist from a bygone era.

You whippersnappers.

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  1. the one eyed man says

    Tom Lehrer invented the jello shot? Who knew?

    Posted August 2, 2006 at 6:13 pm | Permalink
  2. Ira says

    Let us not forget “(I’m Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica”.

    Posted February 9, 2007 at 10:25 pm | Permalink