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Happy birthday to the master

Published Tuesday, April 09, 2013 @ 7:54 AM EDT
Apr 09 2013

Happy birthday to one of my few personal heroes: Thomas Andrew Lehrer (born April 9, 1928). He is 29.44 today. (He always gives his birthday in Celsius.)


"Lehrer was able to express and to expose, in humorous verse and lilting music, some of the most powerful dangers of the second half of the century... Many of the causes of which Lehrer sang became, three decades later, part of the main creative impulse of mankind.
-Sir Martin Gilbert, historian, who in 1999 named Lehrer one of the ten great figures of the previous 100 years.


Observations from Tom Lehrer:

Alas, irreverence has been subsumed by mere grossness, at least in the so-called mass media. What we have now- to quote myself at my most pretentious- is a nimiety of scurrility with a concomitant exiguity of taste. For example, the freedom (hooray!) to say almost anything you want on television about society's problems has been co-opted (alas!) by the freedom to talk instead about flatulence, orgasms, genitalia, masturbation, etc., etc., and to replace real comment with pop-culture references and so-called "adult" language. Irreverence is easy- what's hard is wit.

Always predict the worst and you be hailed as a prophet.

Base eight is just like base ten, really... if you're missing two fingers.

I don't like people to get the idea that I have to do this for a living. I mean, it isn't as though I had to do this, you know, I could be making, oh, $3,000 a year, just teaching.

I feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up.

I feel that if any songs are going to come out of World War III, we'd better start writing them now.

I have never used an illegal drug in my life. Also, I have never told a lie.

I never got a Ph.D. I wanted to be a graduate student all my life and they wanted me to be a Ph.D. These two goals were incompatible.

I think there is a lingering desire for literacy and I pride myself on being literate to the point of pretentiousness. I still say “whom” a lot. Why say “since” when you can say “in as much as?”

I'd like to take you now, on wings of song as it were, and try and help you forget for a while your drab, wretched lives.

I'm sure we all agree that we ought to love one another and I know there are people in the world that do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that!

If anyone disagrees with anything I say, I am quite prepared to not only retract it, but also to deny under oath I ever said it.

If you've been to Cincinatti, there's no need to go to Cleveland.

In my youth... there were certain words you couldn't say in front of a girl; now you can say them, but you can't say “girl.”

Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends upon what you put into it.

No one is more dangerous than someone who thinks he has the Truth. To be an atheist is almost as arrogant as to be a fundamentalist. But then again, I can get pretty arrogant.

On my income tax 1040 it says “Check this box if you are blind.” I wanted to put a check mark about three inches away.

Once all the Germans were warlike and mean
But that couldn't happen again.
We taught them a lesson in nineteen eighteen
And they've hardly bothered us since then.
MLF Lullaby (1964)

Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Self-indulgence is better than no indulgence at all.

Categories: Quotes of the day, Tom Lehrer


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