Tom Lehrer – Highlights from the 3/20 Rock and Roll Revisited

Quick Takes:

People don’t become fully “adult” until they’re in their 30s, according to brain scientists. (And then, there are some of us who -never- grow up!)

These Are the World’s Happiest (and Most Miserable) Countries. Via @bloomberg.

Research shows that eliminating barriers makes us more likely to buy. Instagram is the latest app to let you purchase directly through them. via @Recode.

China’s use of tech to control the masses is well known. But did you know thatPersuasion architectures via surveillance-based micro-targeting are already deployed in the United States”? Via @axios.

Shop Talk:

Are females in media benefiting from “The Year of the Woman”? Here’s what the survey says. Via @jacobsmedia

More proof that “public service” can be profitable.

Disney follows a familiar path. Size and scale equal survival. Via @latimes

Today in History: 

1961: At United Recording in Hollywood, Ricky Nelson recorded ‘Hello Mary Lou.‘ The Jordanaires overdubbed background vocals on March 22.

1964: George Harrison escorted teen star Hayley Mills and her mother to a midnight charity benefit showing of the film ‘Charade‘ at the Regal Cinema in Henley-on-Thames, England.

1965: U.S. President Lyndon Johnson ordered 4,000 soldiers to protect Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights marchers in Alabama.

1967: The English fashion model nicknamed ‘Twiggy,‘ known for her thin (twig-like) frame and short skirts, arrived in the U.S. for a one-week stay.

1969: After days of looking for a suitable, legal place, John Lennon married Yoko Ono in the British Consulate Office at the Rock of Gibraltar in Spain, a piece of land still owned by the English and described by Lennon as being necessarily ‘quiet, friendly, and British.’

1974: Former NBC News anchorman Chet Huntley died of lung cancer at the age of 62.

1976: Heiress Patricia Hearst was convicted of armed robbery for her role in the holdup of a San Francisco bank by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

1989: After 37 years with the program, Dick Clark announced his intention to discontinue hosting ‘American Bandstand’ on ABC-TV.

1991: A jury in Los Angeles awarded Peggy Lee $3.8-million (later reduced to $2.3 million) in videocassette profits for her singing and songwriting in Disney’s animated classic ‘Lady and the Tramp.’ Lee had been paid only $3,500 for co-writing six songs and providing the voice for four characters in the 1955 film.

1994: Humorist/columnist/author Lewis Grizzard died of heart failure at the age of 47.

1996: Nelson Mandela divorced his second wife, Winnie, after 38 years of marriage and two children.

1999: The only Legoland theme park outside of Europe opened in Carlsbad, California, 35 miles north of San Diego.

Happy Birthday to:
(1908) Sir Michael Redgrave (d. 1985)
(1922) Carl Reiner
(1922) Jack Kruschen (d. 2002)
(1922) Ray Goulding (d. 1990)
(1928) Fred Rogers (d. 2003)
(1931) Hal Linden
(1937) Jerry Reed (d. 2008)
(1950) Carl Palmer

Today’s Quote Worth Re-Quoting: Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it.” ~Tom Lehrer


Dr. Demento called him, “the best musical satirist of the twentieth century. Randy Newman and “Weird Al” Yankovic are huge fans. His 1965 LP with music from the NBC TV series “That Was the Week That Was” is a prized possession for many of us who were discovering our social consciousness.

Tom Lehrer was born on April 9, 1928. He’ll be 90 next month. He was a mathematician and political scientist, teaching during his long career at MIT and UC Santa Clara. But he could also play the piano, had a love for show tunes and a razor sharp wit.

I remember the night my dad brought Tom’s “That Was The Week That Was” LP home. We had a Sony stereo in the living room, flanked by two huge speakers from the days before Bose made everything small sound big. He had heard about it from a friend but hadn’t listened to it yet.

In those days, dinner at our house was a debrief on our activities and discussion about the complex issues facing a painfully evolving world. There was no music or television allowed during the meal. That came years later when we were on our own, diminishing the interaction to the point where my grandson would rather watch the Transformers while he eats than tell me about his adventures.

After supper that night, we all settled down in the living room to check Tom Lehrer out. That’s another thing we don’t do anymore. When was the last time you brought your nuclear fam together to listen to a record?

We were delighted. The LP was taped before a live audience, but we all agreed we would have laughed just as hard if he were playing the tunes in our living room.

During his brief musical career, Tom Lehrer was one of the foremost satirists of the time. His material was irreverent and topical, covering everything from racism and the atomic bomb to religion and pornography. He wrote for the American version of the BBC series, “That Was the Week That Was” during its brief prime, from January of 1964 through May of 1965.

Lehrer ultimately decided he liked the classroom better than the stage, eschewed interviews for years to the point where few of his students knew about his altar ego. To us, he was a sophisticated version of the sophomorically funny Alan Sherman. George Carlin at the piano without the cuss words. Listen to his stuff today and it’s just as funny and in many cases just as timely as it was when we first heard it in our Ann Arbor living room.

Here’s Tom’s take on “The New Math”. (Video)