Tom Lehrer

On this date in 1928, satiric songwriter Thomas Andrew Lehrer was born to a secular Jewish family in New York City. A precocious student, he earned a degree in math from Harvard at 18 and a master’s the following year. Lehrer recorded “The Songs of Tom Lehrer” in 1953, followed by “An Evening (Wasted) With Tom Lehrer.” He performed on stage reluctantly, finally bowing out altogether.

After writing for NBC’s “That Was The Week That Was” (1964), Lehrer cut his third and most political album, “That Was The Year That Was.” A musical revue of his work, “Tomfoolery,” later opened in London. Lehrer has taught at MIT, Harvard, Wellesley and at the University of California-Santa Cruz.

One of his most famous quips: “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.” His claim to fame in the freethought community is the perennial favorite “The Vatican Rag” (lyrics below). Lehrer has said: “I firmly believe all religion is bullshit, but I don’t think I would have gone and written a song expressing that, unless I could figure out a way to make it funny.” (Telephone interview with Jeremy Mazner, Nov. 21, 1995)

PHOTO: Lehrer at about age 30.

Freedom From Religion Foundation