Tom Lehrer

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New York, Manhattan
Birth Sign
New York, Manhattan

American singer-songwriter and mathematician Tom Lehrer was given the name Thomas Andrew Lehrer at birth. He is renowned for his satire and black humor. He frequently mimicked well-known songs while singing, and he also penned contentious lyrics that addressed the social and political issues of the day. He used to take classical piano lessons as a child, but with time his passion turned to pop music. He started writing music at a young age, including songs. Lehrer was an outstanding student who graduated from Harvard University with an AB in mathematics at the age of 19 and a master’s degree the following year. He taught at MIT, Harvard, and Wellesley and was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Society, an academic honor society in the United States that seeks to encourage and advocate excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. He was a self-assured man who never cared about being politically incorrect and always spoke his mind. Due to their gloomy, macabre, and sarcastic nature, his songs frequently sparked controversy, but he never bothered. Though he had no intentions of becoming a musician, he began writing humorous songs while still in college to amuse himself and his friends. However, he was urged to record them by his pals who appreciated his parodies and humorous songs very much. So, in 1953, he made his debut album, “Songs by Tom Lehrer,” for his own record company, Lehrer Records. Lehrer was a humorous paradox who successfully juggled two ostensibly unrelated professions: musician and mathematician.

Early Childhood & Life

Tom Lehrer was born in Manhattan to an American Jewish family. His parents’ divorce when he was 14 is the only thing that is known about them.

He started off studying classical piano at a young age, but as his passion for pop music grew, he started taking piano lessons from a pop music expert. He soon started writing humorous songs and tunes.
He was an exceptional student who graduated from Horace Mann School in New York at the age of 15 after skipping many grades. He enrolled at Harvard University, where he earned both an undergraduate and a graduate degree in mathematics. He started penning humorous tunes as a college student to amuse his buddies.

Career of Tom Lehrer

He enrolled in the doctoral program at Harvard and performed research at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. He afterward started teaching at other schools and universities, including MIT, Harvard, the University of California, and others.

In 1953, he self-released his debut album under his own record label, Lehrer Records, titled “Songs by Tom Lehrer,” and thus began his musical career. His songs’ gory and absurdist content ensured that he quickly developed a cult following.

He returned to Harvard to teach and finish his Ph.D. after a brief service in the US Army from 1955 to 1957. He was unable to earn a mathematics doctorate, nevertheless.

‘An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer’ is a live CD that Lehrer recorded in 1959 at Harvard’s Sanders Theater. Songs like “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” and “The Masochism Tango” had startling lyrics.
In 1959, ‘More of Tom Lehrer’, his second album, was released. The track lineup was the same as on his last album. He simultaneously released the live and studio versions.

His next album, “Tom Lehrer Revisited,” was published in 1960 and had live renditions of every song from his previous CD, “Songs by Tom Lehrer,” which was released in 1953. He also contributed songs to the U.S. version of the British television news program “That Was the Week That Was” in the 1960s.
His songs from the 1960s dealt with issues like racism, war, religion, pollution, etc., and became more and more political.

After a six-year hiatus, he released the album “That Was the Year That Was” in 1965, which contained songs he had written for the television program “That Was the Week That Was.”
He sang several of his songs during a brief tour he had in 1967 through Norway and Denmark. Around the same period, he wrote and performed piano original tunes for a Dodge auto commercial.

By the 1970s, Lehrer nearly abandoned his musical endeavors in order to focus solely on his lecturing. Nevertheless, at a friend’s request, he composed some songs for the children’s educational television series “The Electric Company.”

He started working as a math and musical theater instructor at the University of California in 1972.
He worked there for 29 years before teaching his final math lesson in 2001. Since then, he has been enjoying retirement.

Bigger Works of Tom Lehrer

‘Songs by Tom Lehrer’, his self-produced and self-released debut album from 1953, managed to garner enough interest for Lehrer to develop a cult following. It included the popular song “Fight Fiercely, Harvard,” which was written by him while he was still a student at Harvard.
Tom Lehrer captured his performance at Sanders Theater in 1959 for the live album “An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer.” It featured songs like “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park,” “The Elements,” and “Clemetine” that surprised as well as delighted the listeners with their macabre humor and dark humor.
His only album to receive a Gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) was “That Was the Year That Was” (1965). The songs were originally written by Lehrer for the television show “That Was the Week That Was.” The songs’ lyrics were quite audacious and bold.

Recognition & Achievements

Due to the unorthodox and politically wrong nature of his works, Tom Lehrer has not received any significant awards. He was, however, a 1961 Grammy Award nominee for Best Comedy Performance-Musical.

Personal Legacy & Life

Lehrer is a single man without kids. After a busy career balancing music and mathematics, he is currently enjoying his tranquil retirement.

Net Worth of Tom Lehrer

The estimated net worth of Tom Lehrer is about $1 million.


His appeal increased after U.K. Princess Margaret described her musical preferences as “catholic, ranging from Mozart to Tom Lehrer.”
Stephen Sondheim, an American composer and lyricist, is much admired by him.
He finds it very humorous and frequently makes fun of the fact that he has been referred to be “dead” in newspapers.