Friday, April 9, 2010

Tom Lehrer and "The Elements"

Tom Lehrer turns 82.

Bill Ashworth in the Linda Hall Library Newsletter...

Tom Lehrer, American mathematician turned song-writer, was born Apr. 9, 1928. Lehrer studied at Harvard, but in the 1950s he began performing satirical songs that he had written, accompanying himself on the piano. In 1953, he released his first album, Songs of Tom Lehrer, which he recorded in one hour at a studio cost of $15, then had 400 copies pressed, which he sold from his home by mail. His songs embraced such warm topics as dope-peddling, southern conservatism, and obsession with the dead, and consequently, his songs were never played on the radio. His reputation was therefore slow to spread, but spread it did, and by 1959, when he released his second album, he was moderately well-known, at least on college campuses. His appeal lay mostly in the cleverness of his song-writing. His song "Elements", from his second album in 1959, is nothing but a list of the 102 then-known chemical elements, to the turn of the “Major General” song from Pirates of Penzance, but it is just brilliant.

"The Elements"


Tom Lehrer

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