Minister of Science and Chief Protector of the Faith

Sunday, September 09, 2007

YouTubing Tom Lehrer

"I wish people who have trouble communicating would just shut up." Tom Lehrer

What can I begin to say about Tom Lehrer? he is a modern American satirist whose talent is comparable to such notables such as Edgar Allen Poe and Ambrose Bierce, in my opinion. Lehrer's musical career was very brief, having performed only 109 shows, and written only 37 songs. His work is still popular today, some forty years after he gave up his musical career and decided to concentrate on teaching. His work reflects the era in which it was written, but is still relevant today.

I still have my well worn copy of "An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer" that I used to listen to over and over again when I was in high school, even though by the time I bought it used at a garage sale, Lehrer had already quit the business and gone back to teaching years before.

This article is far better than anything I could write about the comedian. This website has collection of lyrics with MIDI accompaniments, footnotes, links, and images. You can find a brief biography of Lehrer on Wikipedia. Lehrer's official website can be found here. A list accolades about Lehrer can be found at this website about "The Physical Revue," a show that he wrote and performed while he was in college.

There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium, And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium, And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium, And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium, Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium, And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium, And gold, protactinium and indium and gallium, And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.

There's yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium, And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium, There's strontium and silicon and silver and samarium, And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium, and barium. There's holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium, And phosphorus and francium and fluorine and terbium, And manganese and mercury, molybdenum, magnesium, Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and caesium.

And lead, praseodymium and platinum, plutonium, Palladium, promethium, potassium, polonium, And tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium, And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium.

There's sulphur, californium and fermium, berkelium, And also mendelevium, einsteinium, nobelium, And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc and rhodium, And chlorine, carbon, cobalt, copper, tungsten, tin and sodium.

These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard, And there may be many others but they haven't been discovered.

One YouTuber posted a whole Tom Lehrer LP Record from 1965, "That Was The Year That Was". This is so cool that a record executive is bound to have it removed in no time. Enjoy it while you can!

"I know that there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!" Tom Lehrer

While I was searching for Lehrer's music on YouTube, I found a bunch of songs that he wrote for "The Electric Company" and "Sesame Street." I didn't know anything about these tunes. What a great surprise!

"It is a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age he had been dead for two years." Tom Lehrer

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At Sun Sep 09, 11:43:00 AM, Blogger Freida Bee said...

I love old Sesame Street and Electric Company songs. I didn't know who was behind them and I enjoyed reading this. I only recently discovered what must have been in my subconsciuos from younger years, that I first saw Morgan Freeman on E.C. He really could have gone the singing route as well.

At Sun Sep 09, 09:32:00 PM, Blogger Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

My 6th grade science teacher played the Element Song for us followed by Poisoning Pigeons in the Park. He was the greatest teacher I ever had.

At Sun Sep 09, 11:43:00 PM, Anonymous Dee Loralei said...

Silly aside here, I used to tell my family and friends that they must naturally love the show "The Gilmore Girls" because they already loved a Lorelei. At one point the show was populated with three various and distinct Loreleis.

Anyway, to tie into your Lehrer post, Luke's daughter sang the Element song on some geek bus trip to a knowledge bowl.

I was out last night and saw a young woman with a DragonFly Inn Tshirt.

Oh and, FWIW, another musician turned teacher is Rob Jungkliss, he has one of the best 5 pm on a Friday, weekend is here songs, called "Memphis Thing". He grew up and is now teaching at a private girls prep school in Memphis. But it's a damned fun song. ( One of my HS boyfriends was the frummer on that album.)

At Sun Sep 09, 11:45:00 PM, Anonymous Dee Loralei said...

that would be drummer, not frummer, methinks a frummer is some sort of weird kinky gay thing with David Frum :-P

I shudder at my typos.

At Mon Sep 10, 05:47:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Zaius said...

Freida Bee: I'm firmly convinced that some of the best music ever written was written for children's television. It's funny how those programs pervade your memory long after other childhood memories have disappeared. Morgan Freeman has had such a great career as an actor that i am glad he took the route he did, but you are right, he would made a great singer!

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator: Ha! What a great teacher!

Dee Loralei: I am sorry to say that I have never watched "The Gilmore Girls". When I think of the name Lorelei, I always think of a mermaid. According to this website, the name Lorelei means "a rocky cliff on the Rhine river, dangerous to boat passage, has been poetically personified as the Lorelei, whose singing lures men to destruction." Ack! I'm not sure that I understand the significance of a Dragonfly Inn T-shirt, but the band you mention sounds interesting!

At Mon Sep 10, 03:56:00 PM, Blogger Karla said...

Did I ever mention attending the auditions to Tom Lehrer's relatively rarely taught musical theater class? I think it was my freshman year in college. I was deeply impressed at being in the same room with him, although I don't think he himself performed more than one song since, of course, he was auditioning students.

I suppose he is long since retired. The only one of my undergrad professors who still seems to be teaching is the one hired my senior year. (Don't you hate those signs of impending age???)

At Tue Sep 11, 04:03:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Zaius said...

Wow! That's so cool that you got to hear him live, Karla! Don't even talk about this whole "getting old" thing. I don't want to hear it!

At Wed Sep 12, 01:38:00 AM, Anonymous Dee Loralei said...

DrZ, yea Die Lorelei is a mythical mermaid and poem in Germanic history. There is a bronze statue of her on a small isle in the Rhine River. She was so desirable, she sang many sailors to their deaths at the rocks at her feet.

My parents met in a freshman German class in college, started dating, fell in love, got married, had me. They wanted a tribute to their "great love" and to always remember "how they met," and thus my name. But they didn't want me to be called Die, so they spelled it more phonetically, which became Dee.

At Wed Sep 12, 09:15:00 AM, Blogger Dr. Zaius said...

Dee is a nice name too. I had a crush on Sandra Dee!


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