Roy Zimmerman

On this date in 1957, satirist and singer-songwriter Roy Zimmerman was born in San Francisco and was raised “in a cult,” he quips. “It was called Lutheranism.” After a time as his church’s choir director as a young adult, he “drifted into other waters.”

Zimmerman wrote a series of satirical musical revues in the 1980s that were produced by the San Jose Repertory Theatre, including YUP! (1984), UP the YUP (1985) and YUP It UP! (1986). They parodied the excesses of the evolving yuppie culture in the Silicon Valley. In 1996 he founded a satirical folk quartet named The Foremen that performed at the national conventions of both major political parties.

He continued to work as a solo performer with liberal and irreligious points of view. “I write satire because I want to use humor to do serious work. I’m often accused of preaching to the converted, but I don’t think of it that way. I think of it as entertaining the troops,” Zimmerman said. “If we ever attain a worldwide consciousness of peace and justice, I’ll be happily out of a job.”

He performed at the Rock Beyond Belief concert in 2012 at Fort Bragg, N.C., and at FFRF’s 2017 national convention. His song “The Liar Tweets Tonight” in various versions has had over 11 million video views as of this writing in 2020. In 2019 he released his 10th studio album, “RiZe Up.” He and his wife Melanie Harby have co-written an estimated 1,000 songs, live in Marin County, Calif., and tour extensively. Their best collaboration, Zimmerman said, is their two sons, Joe and Sam.

Harby is an award-winning bluegrass guitar player and was an original Broadway cast member of the musical “Quilters” in 1984. She worked as a guitar tech for Joni Mitchell and was her research assistant on the 31-track “Hits” and “Misses” recording project.

Richard Dawkins has called Zimmerman “a modern-day Tom Lehrer.” Asked if being openly atheist has caused him problems as a performer, he said: “It’s important, I think, to present these ideas, whether they be religious or political or just social satire, in a way that’s inviting, in a way that brings people into your argument. The implicit argument is not here’s what I think and you should think that, too. The implicit argument is here’s what I find absurd, don’t you?” (“Freethought Matters,” Oct. 29, 2020)

On that episode of FFRF’s TV talk show, Zimmerman sang his song “I Want a Marriage Like They Had in the Bible” and commented, “As Dan [Barker] was saying, if people were to harken to what the bible actually has to say about marriage, they’d be horrified. For you and I actually read the bible. A lot of believers don’t.” 

Freedom From Religion Foundation