Thursday, June 15, 2017

Throwback Thursday Musical Nostalgia: Tom Lehrer Sings "The Elements"


We had to go back 50 years to find this one, to a recording made in Copenhagen, Denmark in September 1967. We've previously posted some of Tom Lehrer's satirical masterpieces. The Elements is one of his most famous works.

For some of our younger readers who may not know who Tom Lehrer is, he's an 89-year-old retired American singer-songwriter, satirist, pianist, and mathematician. He has lectured on mathematics and musical theater. He is best known for the pithy, humorous songs he recorded in the 1950s and '60s. His work often parodies popular song forms, though he usually creates original melodies when doing so. 

A notable exception is The Elements, where he sets the names of the chemical elements to the tune of the Major General's song from Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance.

The ordering of elements in the lyrics fits the meter of the song, and includes much alliteration, and thus has little or no relation to the ordering in the periodic table. When Lehrer wrote the song in 1959 there were 102 elements. Today there are 118.


Lehrer drew the inspiration for The Elements from the song Tchaikovsky and Other Russians, written by Ira Gershwin, which listed fifty Russian composers in a similar manner.
Enjoy!


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#Throwback Thursday   #TBT

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