I was not familiar with Tom Lehrer’s work until his song “Werner Von Braun” was randomly dropped into an episode of the Al Pacino’s anti-Nazi series “Hunters.” Before I knew what hit me, I was deep down the rabbit hole of his songs on YouTube and Googling his life story.
Lehrer was a Harvard educated MIT professor who’d spent time in the army and wrote music that was satirical, dark, subversive and way ahead of its time. On subjects as diverse as mocking his military service, the Periodic Table of the Elements, how World War III will kill us all, math, the Jim Crow South, one called “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” and this one, that is obviously about spreading STDs, but works just as well with the ‘rona. Suffice to say this was pretty advanced stuff for TV of the late 1950s and ‘60s. And it still works today. There different kinds of genius, and this guy seemed to have had them all.