No round-up of rib-tickling rhythms would be replete without that swinging sultan of singing satire – and avid aficionado of amusing alliteration, along with much wickedly-waspish wordplay – deep breath, big drum-roll! – Tom Lehrer.
The wonderful Wikipedia [Enough already! Ed.] describes him as a retired American musician, singer-songwriter, satirist and mathematician. In the early 1970s, Lehrer largely retired from public performances to devote his time to teaching mathematics and music theatre at the University of California. He’s best known for the pithy and humorous songs that he recorded in the 1950s and 1960s which often parodied popular musical forms, though he usually created original melodies when doing so.
Lehrer’s early work typically dealt with non-topical subject matter and was noted for its black humour in songs such as “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”. In the 1960s, he produced a number of songs that dealt with social and political issues of the day. The popularity of these songs has endured their topical subjects and references. Lehrer quoted a friend’s explanation: “Always predict the worst and you’ll be hailed as a prophet.”
The Cold War may be over but, perhaps sadly, the song I’ve chosen still has bite today. His elegant, laid-back style has hardly dated and that innocent insouciance – and jaunty piano – somehow subtly subvert the seriousness of the subject-matter. A short, sharp shock … [He’s at it again! You’re fired! Ed.]