Tom Lehrer is an American satirist whose brief, but influential entertainment career in the 1960s still resonates today, especially with me. Buzzfeed posted this interesting article about him this week and reading it was enough to get me going on this post. First off, he’s not dead yet, at 86, after his brush with fame, he has spent the last 40 years living a bicoastal life as a university professor, half that time at UC Santa Cruz and the other half in Cambridge.
I first became acquainted with Mr. Lehrer by watching him sing and perform on the short-lived NBC political comedy show, “That Was The Week That Was”, or to put it in Lehrer’s mathematical vernacular: (TW)³. My child bride took an early ‘inheritance’ when she swiped her parent’s Tom Lehrer album on her way off to college. For the longest time that LP was our only source of Lehrer humor, other than our friend Cooper who could recite many of Lehrer’s biggest hits from memory. Now with YouTube and the Internet everyone can enjoy his satire. In the end, he only published 37 songs.
The Buzzfeed article was informative. It speaks to Lehrer’s college days at Harvard, his formative years. He started college at 15 and grad school at 18. All the while, he was ad-libbing out of his dorm room with its upright piano. I did not know that he worked for the NSA during the Korean War, where his greatest contribution there was the invention of the vodka Jell-O shot. Mainly though the article speaks to his post-performance years and his utter disdain for that body of work. It’s an article worth reading. Also checkout his songs on YouTube.