Tom Lehrer Interview

Friday, March 04, 2011

I've mentioned here that I very much enjoy the music of mathematician Tom Leherer. Needless to say, I look forward to reading the entirety of this A.V. Club interview (HT: Snedcat) once I get home today. "Weird Al" Yankovic adds his two cents' worth at the end:

Tom Lehrer is one of my two living musical idols (Stan Freberg being the other). Even though his lifelong recorded output was not what you would call voluminous, the undisputed brilliance of those songs has inspired hero worship among several generations of fans of satire and funny music. I've never met Mr. Lehrer in person, but we've exchanged a couple letters and phone calls. (I was thrilled beyond words when he started quoting lines from my movie UHF!) I tried my best to get him to appear on my ill-fated CBS Saturday-morning kids show, but he declined. I knew it was a long shot: Lehrer treasures his anonymity so much that he has never allowed publicity photos to be taken for his albums, and he's successfully managed to avoid the spotlight for more than three decades. I've always kind of considered him the J.D. Salinger of demented music.
And, I guess, since I'll be coming back to read the interview, I'll take this opportunity to remind myself to buy some of his music already/recommend it to my readers.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

After reading this interview I decided to check Lehrer out on YouTube. He is very good and astute. I especially like The Vatican Rag. I liked it so much, I just purchased his CD/DVD collection on Amazon. I've been craving intelligent satire for a long time.

Bookish Babe

Gus Van Horn said...


I'm glad to see that I helped him gain a new fan, and am mildly jealous that you'll get to hear it all for the first time. (But, as he says in the interview, really good humor merits multiple listenings. His definitely falls into that category.)

"Vatican Rag" is very good, as are "The Old Dope Peddler," "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park," and "Oedipus Rex."

So many are good, and in different ways, though, that I can't really name a favorite.


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "So many are good, and in different ways, though, that I can't really name a favorite."

Besides the ones already mentioned, "Wernher von Braun" would be a strong contender for me, as would "Who's Next?", "The MLF Lullaby," "National Brotherhood Week," and "We Will All Go Together When We Go," but I think my favorite overall would be either "Smut" or "I Wanna Go Back to Dixie." The last is a song a Southerner either absolutely loves or even more absolutely hates. (And I really get a kick out of the song he wrote for Garrison Keillor's show, "I'm Spending Hannukah in Santa Monica.")

But looking over the track lists on Amazon, it amazes me again just how much wheat and how little chaff there is in his output.

Gus Van Horn said...

I've been listening, but had forgotten, "I Wanna Go Back to Dixie," which I like.

There are a few on Youtube I'd never heard before, including a couple you mentioned, and "Alma," which I like.