Tom Lehrer, still poisoning pigeons, is 90

Tom Lehrer, still poisoning pigeons, is 90


norman lebrecht

April 08, 2018

Hats off to the mathematician satirist.

With a tribute below from Stephen Sondheim.


  • Leonard Slatkin says:

    Tom was considered the most irreverent singer/songwriter of his time. His humor remains as fresh today as it was back in the 60’s. Happy birthday young genius and bring back “The Vatican Rag.”

  • Mike Schachter says:

    Wonderfully funny and perceptive. Has never been equalled.

  • Zelda Macnamara says:

    This made my day! Thank you!

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Maybe Londoners did not think it was so funny with “where the rockets fall down”…

    Happy Birthday Mr Lehrer!


  • David R Osborne says:

    And the song about Alma Mahler.

  • BillG says:

    “I have a friend in Minsk. . . “

  • Sharon says:

    I remember first hearing Lehrer on the radio in Canada in, I believe, 1969. I was a kid and they sounded pretty shocking At the time his lyrics were too political and edgy for commercial US radio.

    I understand that in later life (over 60) he became quite cynical (although he was more than halfway there already!) and a semi recluse.

  • V.Lind says:

    So long, Mom, I’m off to drop the bomb, so don’t wait up for me…

  • William Safford says:

    Several years ago, while listening to the local classical radio station while driving, I heard several Tom Lehrer songs. My first thought: he must have just passed away. I was delighted to discover that I was wrong, and that, instead, his birthday or some other milestone was being celebrated.

    I discovered Tom Lehrer’s music via my late uncle’s EP, and then from the Dr. Demento Show. At summer music camp, we sang and performed his songs. I have never had the honor of meeting him, and I am too young to have heard him live, but I heard a few stories from his sometime-collaborator Joe Raposo. (Alas, the stories have faded away in the mists of time.)

    I love his humor and his erudition. Happy Birthday!

  • SC says:

    Given the pigeons is this the moment to raise the recondite matter of.various overlaps with some songs of George Kreisler? Wikipedia has a few comments on this complicated matter but maybe someone out there knows more.

  • Marcel Buttrup says:

    Greetings from Denmark too.
    He performed his last live concert here i Copenhagen, when he was appointed the Danish students “Honor-Artist Of The Year” (or what you would call it in English.)
    His humor match the nordic student’s very well. He also performed a concert i Norway prior to the last one in Copenhagen. The Copenhagen concert can be seen on Youtube.
    It is nearly possible to see me among the audience. Very young and very devotet.
    My favorite: “When You Are Old And Grey…” He might be too, but not in my mind

  • Novagerio says:

    Otto Klemperer’s favourite was the Vatican Rag! :))

  • Duncan McLennan says:

    Many years ago I was a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California at Santa Cruz. I visited the Mathematics Department to check with a friend about our weekly poker night. He was with a colleague and during the conversation my New Zealand origins were mentioned. The colleague then asked, “One thing I’ve always wanted to know about New Zealand – why was Tom Lehrer so popular there?” I replied that I thought he was popular and appreciated everywhere, and asked him why he was curious.

    “I’m Tom Lehrer”, he replied. And he was.

    Plagiarize, plagiarize, don’t let anyone else’s work evade your eyes.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      I live in Santa Cruz and few people here know anything about him. I could be wrong, but I don’t think he gets out much any more. I’ve never met anyone who’s ‘run into him’ here.

    • Dave T says:

      To which you replied, “I have a friend in Auckland, who has a friend in Oakland…”

    • jay banks says:

      The liner notes to his first album state that he is a sensation on three continents, “and Madagascar, where half a million gibbering natives [sorry about the racism, I didn’t write it] think he is God.”