Music: The Remains of Tom Lehrer

  • Share
  • Read Later

In the '50s came a Harvard man--a math prof by trade--with a crew cut, a strangulated tenor and a way of forcing parables of antisocial behavior (e.g., incest) into jolly rhyme schemes ("I'd rather marry a duck-billed pledipus/ Than end up like old Oedipus/ Rex"). For a few years, on albums and in concerts, Lehrer was a comedy hero to the intelligentsia and other lonely people. He surfaced briefly to write songs for the TV shows That Was the Week That Was (no one, not even those who tried, can forget National Brotherhood Week) and The Electric Company (kids hummed Silent E for minutes on end), then retreated to his blackboard. So the Rhino compilation of his collected works--all 45 songs, including the newish (I'm Spending) Hanukkah in Santa Monica--is cause for temperate rejoicing from word nerds of all ages. Everyone, sing a chorus of Poisoning Pigeons in the Park...