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Tom Lehrer

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Thomas Andrew “Tom” Lehrer (born 9 April 1928) is an American singer-songwriter, satirist, pianist, and mathematician. He has lectured on mathematics and musical theater.

Before attending college, Lehrer graduated from the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut. As an undergraduate student at Harvard University, he began to write comic songs to entertain his friends, including Fight Fiercely, Harvard (1945). Those songs later became (in a joking reference to a leading scientific journal, The Physical Review) The Physical Revue. Influenced mainly by musical theater, his style consisted of parodying then-current forms of popular song. For example, his appreciation of list songs led him to set the names of the chemical elements to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Major-General’s Song”.

Inspired by the success of his performances of his songs, he paid for some studio time to record an album, Songs By Tom Lehrer, which he sold by mail order. Self-published and unpromoted, the album, which included the macabre (I Hold Your Hand In Mine), the mildly risqué (Be Prepared), and the mathematical (Lobachevsky), became a success via word of mouth. With a cult hit, he embarked on a series of concert tours and released a second album, which came in two versions: the songs were the same but More Songs by Tom Lehrer was studio-recorded, while An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer was recorded live in concert.

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