Why I still Adore Tom Lehrer

Published July 3, 2015 by mindfulofchatter


When I was about 10 years old, my friend up the street found her mother’s copy of ‘Songs By Tom Lehrer’. Back in 1969, this meant it was large, round and made of black vinyl. We immediately put it on her turntable (your know, those little fold up ones all us kids had) and laughed until the last song was over. Her mom then handed us ‘More Songs by Tom Lehrer’. We were in heaven.

I loved them so much, her mom gave the albums to me. Later I added ‘An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer’, and ‘That Was The Year That Was’. All on those big, bulky, black vinyl albums. I read the covers. I sang alone. I almost wore them out playing them. I finally understood some of the references when I hit high school. I even managed to secure a copy of the book ‘Too Many Songs by Tom Lehrer (with not enough drawings). I still have that book all these years later.

And I learned things.

I learned that pianos have 88 keys.

I can name most of the elements. Okay, I have to sing them to a slightly recognizable tune, but I know them.

I notice words that change with simply adding a silent ‘e’ to the end of them.

I was made aware the enunciation is as important as PROnunciation. After all, saying it correctly means nothing if one can’t understand it.

I have a strong dislike for mathematics, yet I can solve one problem in base eight. ‘Cause base eight is just base ten, really. If you’re missing two fingers.

Mr. Lehrer made me appreciate clever lyrics. I still love songs that are clever. Nothing is more tedious than a ‘song’ that is two lines hollered over and over an almost catchy tune. He also drives home the fact that now we are all oversensitive to, well, everything. He discarded any form of political correctness, cared not if anyone was offended by his satire. His humour was (and still is) often a bit over some heads (the rest of you can look it up when you get home). And he left that way with no explanation. After all, if you have to explain it, it is no longer funny.

Tom Lehrer led me to Dr. Demento, who played some Mr. Lehrer’s songs on his radio show. Sunday nights were Dr. Demento nights. I’d listen to the novelty songs and the banter with Captain Chaos and Jungle Judy. Dr. Demento also introduced us to Weird Al. I don’t know if Weird Al ever listened to Tom Lehrer, but he often has the same way with clever lyrics and enunciates very well.

For years I didn’t know what Tom Lehrer looked like. He did not have photos on his albums. Well, none where you could actually see what he looked like. There are loads of photos in the little book that comes with the boxed CD set ‘The Remains of Tom Lehrer’, but I had been listening to him for decades before that came on the market. Now Tom Lehrer can be found on You Tube. After decades of listening, I finally got to see him play and sing.

Now I own what I believe to be all of Tom Lehrer’s recorded works on CD’s. He has his own playlist on my ipod.  After 46 years of listening, I am not tired of him. I still listen often. I still introduce people to his music. If you have a sense of humour, and are not easily offended, go check him out.

I hope you enjoy his music as much as I do.




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