Before there was an EPA we had Tom Lehrer

Originally published at:


This was my favorite song when I was about ten years old.


Americans don’t care too much for beauty
They’ll shit in a river, dump battery acid in a stream
They’ll watch dead rats wash up on the beach
and complain if they can’t swim

Lou Reed, “Last Great American Whale”

Damn fine album! UPDATE: New York (1989).


Do we not still have Tom Lehrer?


… Pollution, pollution; we got smog and sewage and mud
turn on your tap and get hot and cold running crud …

Nice callback to Theodore Sturgeon and his bowdlerizer in there.


Thankfully, this national treasure is still with us. Love ya Tom! Some of the first comedy albums my friend and i would listen to on summer vacation at the lake. Bill Cosby, George Carlin (naughty!) a national lampoon disc?

I bet he could do some great tunes about the, ah, current situation. Even just his razor sharp and super dry delivery of the spoken word. A wonderful guy by all accounts. Now don’t go and disabuse me of my golden nostalgic memories you internet you! aint listenin!


He yet walks among us, but he’s been retired from music for some 45 years now.



You are still the wind beneath my wings.

I used to swing from the monkey bars in 1979 singing your songs from the top of my lungs. When my dad told me that you were a mathematician, it revolutionized my perspective of how cool scientists could be. I would never have become an electrical engineer if it wasn’t for you!.

Wow does this bring back memories.

Please, oh please…pause for a moment and reflect on the days upon us now.

Do they not pull on your heart and cry out for a tiny bit of your creativity?

Is there nothing upon which your searing eye cannot blaze forth again?

America needs you now, more than ever…


Tom Lehrer is way too smart for the current iteration of America.


A slightly different version (from, I think That Was The Year The Was), one verse is changed

Lots of things there that you can drink,
But stay away from the kitchen sink!
The breakfast garbage that you throw into the Bay
They drink at lunch in San Jose.

I believe this may have been from a recording at the Hungry I club in San Francisco, hence the local reference.


Yep, it was TWTYTW. I love that whole album. Two songs about nuclear war that I hope are no longer relevant.


Just wanted to chime in with IT’S SPRING! -well, almost, so


According to Gerald Nachmann’s Seriously Funny (published 2003) Lehrer divides his time between Harvard and Malibu although these days he might spend it all in one place or the other.

At the time he was still teaching but he seemed a little annoyed that incoming students told him “My grandparents have your albums.” By now their grandparents might remember his contributions to The Electric Company.


I have his albums, on vinyl. I’ve been a big fan of comic songs and musical theater since early on, plus I like dark humor and clever wordplay, so Tom Lehrer’s just about perfect for me.

Maybe incoming freshmen are more familiar with his other major innovation, the jello shot.

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According to the internet, he said that political satire was redundant back when Kissenger received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now, well, I’d say political satire is reality so I’m not quite sure what he could do :wink:


Even earlier he used to divide his time between Yale and UC Santa Cruz. I was lucky enough to have him as a professor for a class in mathematics and the social sciences; the class inspired my senior thesis on Markov chains . I also had lunch with him one day in the cafeteria. This was a long time ago, in the 70s ( One student in the class would annoy him by saying that his mother had all of his albums and trying to get him to sing something).


That are not currently relevant. At the rate this administrations going, give it the weekend. That may change.


Lloyd’s of London will be loaded when they go!

And…we…will… (Sing it with me now)


Down by the old maelstrom, there’s a storm before the calm

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