"Political Satire Became Obsolete": Tom Lehrer in 1973

Maybe you had to be there, but Tom Lehrer is to my mind the funniest song-writer-satirist who ever was.

Also the most cogent.

Despite rumours that circulated 40 years ago that he had died, he's still alive at 90, although he no longer performs publicly. Alas.

The quote in the headline, by the way, is what he said when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. That's when Lehrer tossed in the towel.

I vividly remember him from TW3 -- That Was The Week That Was -- which remains some of the best television ever, and the episodes of which I wish were run on those secondary over-the-air channels like ME TV and H&I instead of dreck like Gomer Pyle and Hogan's Heroes.

I mean, how do you top:

"The poor folk hate the rich folk, and the rich folk hate the poor folk,
All of my folk hate all of your folk, it's American as apple pie."

Lehrer, who never completed his PhD -- despite entering Harvard at 14 -- later taught mathematics at MIT, Harvard Business School and UC Santa Cruz  ... the latter along with a class in musical theatre.

How appropriate.

Anyway, it's difficult picking out a couple of Lehrer's best satirical songs because there are so many. But herewith two: National Brotherhood Week (whence came the quote above) and Send the Marines. Both rather resonate today, I think you would agree.

Views: 139

Comment by koshersalaami on May 8, 2018 at 3:24pm

I knew National Brotherhood Week but not Send The Marines, which is eerily perfect. 

I’d heard, probably erroneously, that he’d stopped performing because of a lawsuit from Werner Von Braun. 


Beautiful piano playing on that.

Comment by Safe Bet's Amy on May 8, 2018 at 4:46pm

Heh.  I regret that I never heard of him till now (so thank you for that).

One thing that I found interesting is that there were numerous instances of people trying to credit this song to Tom Lehrer.  He didn't write it (it was actually written by a guy named Sheldon Harnick who also co-wrote "Fiddler On the Roof" I found out) but he sure could have.

I also wonder if this song that preceded his "National Brotherhood Week" by 6 years had any impact on his writing???

this one came to mind because both "Iran" and "some one will set the spark off..." are right back upon us.

Comment by Ron Powell on May 8, 2018 at 5:10pm

Yep! No argument here...

Comment by Ron Powell on May 8, 2018 at 5:18pm

@Kosh; A little help for your comment:

Comment by koshersalaami on May 8, 2018 at 9:24pm

Thanks. My IPad won’t post YouTube videos any more because YouTube doesn’t give out the Embed code, at least not in this format. Maybe it’s only for paying members now.

And of course there’s his famous Elements song. https://youtu.be/AcS3NOQnsQM

Comment by Maui Surfer on May 8, 2018 at 10:16pm

Always made me laugh, at the truth. Taught at Santa Cruz, can't go wrong in Surf City, NorCal ... home of students who come to class with wet hair. Also, just as an aside since it seems many had to do some Googling to get this, the Kingston Trio is from Hawaii, went to the same school as Obama, just in case you didn't know ... along with many, many other famous folks who attended this school older than any other West of the Mississippi, except mine, and, of course, all those formerly run by the First Nations.

Comment by Maui Surfer on May 8, 2018 at 10:18pm

Kosh, just copy and past the entire URL if you have to, if you really want to share a vid ... I just mentioned Google but please don't trust them on anything, they've proved they are capable of everything they said they'd never do. Liars.

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on May 9, 2018 at 7:26am

TL was a treasure.

Comment by Boanerges on May 9, 2018 at 7:31am

In retrospect, perhaps this would have been more appropriate, given the US withdrawal from the Iran agreement:

Comment by Boanerges on May 9, 2018 at 7:40am

' "Und I'm learning Chinese,' says Werhner von Braun." That's another one that was under consideration, Kosh. "Elements" is funny as hell, even to a scientific dunce like me.

One of the first songs I ever learned to play, Amy, back in the Stoned Age. How little has changed, eh? I particularly identified with "And I don't like anybody very much", as you might imagine. And yeah, it's easily a song TL could have written.

Thanks, Ron.

Where I grew up (theoretically), it was coming to second period with wet shoes because we'd been out on the back nine since sunrise. I didn't know -- although maybe I should have -- the Kingston Trio was from Hawaii. Rated them even higher than Chad Mitchell's bunch.

Thanks, Jon. It was a sad day when he gave it up in disgust.


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