Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memories of Tom Lehrer


This year, Tom Lehrer is eighty years old. Back in the sixties, he was a political satirist of some renown. In the United States, his music was considered to be cutting edge. He had a hard time even getting his recordings distributed in the early years of his career. When I was about eight years old, I was over at my friend's house. His parent's records got mixed up with his children's songs. His mother blanched in horror when she caught us listening to "National Brotherhood Week", (presented above). The next time I would note such seismic activity was about four years later when my mother caught me reading Lenny Bruce.
"National Brotherhood Week" seems even more relevant today when one surveys the patchwork quilt of ethnic hostilities that continues to cover the globe from Bosnia to the Congo, from Rwanda to Tibet. Today, new hypocrisies seem to stem from a basic human nature that has remain unchanged since the sixties, which were the peak of Tom Lehrer's career. The manner in which Lehrer utilised shock back then deserves comparison with today's entertainers who often seem to push the limits in an almost nihilistic manner.
The images in the video evoke strong memories of the events that served as the backdrop of Lehrer's performance. I would welcome the return of this type of social commentary to the entertainment scene today. The interesting times we live in certainly would provide Tom Lehrer or anyone like him with ample subject material.
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