Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Roll Over, Stephen Sondheim! Make Way For A Winsome Song About STDs?

This blogger's most recent brush with Blogger's (owned by Google) copyright police involved a long-ago (2003?) posting of the lyrics of a Tom Lehrer song — "Send The Marines." Some copyright law firm trolled the Web and and sent a "cease and desist" letter about the posting of Lehrer's words to Blogger and the Blogger police ordered removal of the posted words. This blogger, always one to obey the law, took down the lyrics and replaced them with a video clip of "Send The Marines" from YouTube (also owned) by Google. There ends the tale of this blogger's latest brush with the copyright police. Ultimately, the proof of the pudding is that this blogger nets nary a cent from this blog — 'Tis a labor of love. Unlike Michael A. Bellesiles, Stephen Ambrose, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and other thieves of the work of others, this blogger takes care to acknowledge authors and copyright. Except for this blogger's words that appear in GREEN and in a different font, the work of other writers and authors appears in BROWN and in a unique font. If this is a (fair & balanced) non-commercial enterprise, so be it.

P.S. Enjoy Tom Lehrer (again).

[x Slate]
The Brainiest Musical Satire You’ve Never Heard
By Nathan Heller

Tag Cloud of the following article

created at

Tom LehrerLong before "Weird Al" Yankovic and "Flight of the Conchords," the world of musical parody belonged to Tom Lehrer, an unlikely academic-cum-satirist whose piano revue lit the way for several generations of comedic songwriters. Although Lehrer gave up performing in the early 1970s (to take a math professorship at U.C.-Santa Cruz), his songbook has had regular revivals since then. This year brings The Tom Lehrer Collection, a two-disc compilation that joins old audio recordings with new video of Lehrer in performance. It's a worthy introduction for the uninitiated—and, for those familiar with his curious art, proof that the songs are still biting and funny half a century after they first appeared.

Lehrer is best-known for his macabre springtime classic "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park," but that specimen hardly does justice to his range as a satirist. He got his start as a songwriter at Harvard in the '40s (many of his earliest parodies lampoon university life) and carried on through the next two decades, writing for nightclubs and variety shows. Gawky, geeky, and equipped with an arch nasal singing voice, Lehrer would have been an impossible cabaret act were it not for his Cole Porter-esque dexterity with rhyme and skill getting inside almost any musical style, or news item, and tearing it to shreds. He almost never whiffed: Whether criticizing nuclear strategy, making fun of the New Math, arguing for liberalized decency laws ("Who needs a hobby/ like tennis or philately?/ I've got a hobby,/ rereading Lady Chatterley"), parodying Gilbert and Sullivan ("For I love she, and she loves me,/ and raptured are the both of we"), or taunting the Catholic Church with ragtime, Lehrer's performances are irresistible for their unfailing lèse-majesté and tightrope wit. In a clip on the new Collection, we learn Lehrer once crossed paths at a summer camp with Stephen Sondheim; and while some might say the two men's verbal talents are equal, Sondheim—as far as I'm aware—never pulled off a winsome, upbeat song about venereal disease.

[x YouTube/Analog36]
"I Got It From Agnes" (Rare Video — Previously Unreleased)
By Tom Lehrer


[Nathan Heller is a Slate copy editor. He graduated from Harvard, wrote for The Crimson, and has contributed to Bookforum, n+1, and other magazines.]

Copyright © 2010 Washington Post.Newsweek Interactive Co.

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