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The brilliant Tom Lehrer

The brilliant Tom Lehrer
Published 15 Apr 2014   Follow @SamRoggeveen

So you thought Buzzfeed was all listicles? Shame on you. They've published a wonderful profile of the great American political satirist Tom Lehrer, 'a sensation in the late 1950s, the era's musical nerd god: a wryly confident Harvard-educated math prodigy who turned his bone-dry wit to satirical musical comedy'.

Lehrer was a man of the left, but...:

...his left was the square, suit-wearing, high-culture left. His circle at Harvard included Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the renowned historian, JFK biographer, and then-nominal chairman of the Cambridge chapter of Americans for Democratic Action. His political hero was Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956, the man whom Richard Nixon damagingly dismissed as an “egghead.”

Stevenson’s losing battle marked the end of a political tradition, and also the beginning of the end of a kind of Ivy League liberal intellectualism’s place atop the Democratic Party. What was coming was the New Left and the counterculture, something whose aesthetics Lehrer couldn’t stand, even if their politics weren’t necessarily at odds.

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