miscellaneous Tom Lehrer lyrics

These are all available at The Demented Music Database

The Subway Song

This song about Boston was written by Tom in 1944. Thanks to Brian Leibowitz for informing us that he performed this live during an interview on WTBS, the MIT radio station, which is now WMBR. It is a parody of "M-O-T-H-E-R (A Word That Means The World To Me)". The interview was aired 10-20-65, and also featured a cover of "The 50 Russian Composers" (similar in concept to "The Elements"), a version of "I Hold Your Hand In Mine", and some songs from his album That Was The Year That Was, which he was promoting at the time.

"This is a song, though, that I wrote when I first came to Cambridge, 20 years ago. And when I first took the subway ride from Cambridge into Boston, I noticed the subway stations on the line had this interesting property."

H is for my alma mater Harvard,
C is Central, next stop on the line,
K is for the cozy Kendall station, and
C is Charles that overlooks the brine...a-
P is Park St...Pahk Street, busy Boston center, and
W is Washington you see...
Put them all together, they spell...
(HCCKKCC... PW... (sounds like somebody spitting))
Which is just about what Boston means to me!

Silent E

This song was written for the PBS children's show "The Electric Company" in 1971. It appeared on an album of songs from "The Electric Company" in stereo. It appears in mono as a bonus track on the CD of Tom Lehrer Revisited and in stereo on The Remains Of Tom Lehrer.

Who can turn a can into a cane?
Who can turn a pan into a pane?
It's not too hard to see,
It's Silent E.

Who can turn a cub into a cube?
Who can turn a tub into a tube?
It's elementary
For Silent E.

He took a pin and turned it into a pine.
He took a twin and turned him into twine.

Who can turn a cap into a cape?
Who can turn a tap into a tape?
A little glob becomes a globe instantly,
If you just add Silent E.

He turned a dam - Alikazam! - into a dame.
But my friend Sam stayed just the same.

Who can turn a man into a mane?
Who can turn a van into a vane?
A little hug becomes huge instantly.
Don't add W, Don't add X, And don't add Y or Z,
Just add Silent E.


This song was written for "The Electric Company" TV show in 1972, but was not released on record until it showed up in 1990 as a bonus track on the CD of Tom Lehrer Revisited (in mono).

You're wearing your squeaky shoes,
And right there taking a snooze
Is a tiger, so how do you walk on by?
[loud whisper] Silently, silently, Silent L.Y.

You're a secret agent man
Who's after the secret plan.
How do you act so they don't know you're a spy?
[acting suspiciously] Normally [whistle], normally [whistle], Normal L.Y.

At an eating contest you boast
That you can eat the most.
How do you down your fiftieth piece of pie?
[nauseated] Eagerly (ugh!), eagerly (yech!), Eager L.Y.

On the lake your boat upset,
And your clothes got soaking wet.
How do you stand and wait for them to dry?
[shivering] D-d-d-d-d-d-patiently, D-d-d-d-d-d-patiently, D-d-d-d-d-d-patient L.Y.

In the public library
You fall and hurt your knee.
But the sign says QUIET PLEASE, so how can you cry?
[crying] Quietly [sniff], quietly [sniff], Quiet L.Y.

As you walk along the street
A porcupine you meet.
How do you shake his hand when he says "hi"?
[warily] Ah, carefully, carefully, Careful L.Y.

You enter a very dark room,
And sitting there in the gloom
Is Dracula.
Now how do you say goodbye?
Immediately, immediately, Immediate L.Y.
Bye bye!

SN (Snore, Sniff & Sneeze)

This was written for "The Electric Company" in 1972, and released on a cassette circa 1998, and later on the box set The Remains Of Tom Lehrer.

Like a rooster loves a hen,
Like a lion loves his den,
Like Barbie loves Ken,
I love to do things that begin with S-N.
For example...

I love to sneeze. *a-choo*
Pardon me please. *a-choo*
I like to sniffle,
It really feels nice.
One handkerchief'll
Just never suffice.
But brother watch out for the breeze
When I sneeze.

I love to sniff. *sniff*
Just take a whiff. *sniff*
I also like snarling;
It feels good to me.
Snarling is darling,
I'm sure you'll agree.
But I'm even happier if
I can sniff, *sniff*
and sneeze. *a-choo*

I love to snore. *snore*
It's more like a roar. *snore*
I like to snooze;
I like resting my head.
I take off my shoes
And I snuggle in bed.
Sometjimes I just lie on the floor
And snore, *snore*
And sniff, *sniff*
And sneeze. *a-choo* *a-choo* *a-choo*

Sometimes I just like to snicker, tee hee,
Or snub any snob who is snotty to me.
And whenever I have a few moments to spend,
I can snoop on a neighbor or snitch on a friend.
But much more than any of these,
I love to snore and to sniff and to sneeze.
*snore* *sniff* *a-choo*
*snore* *sniff* *a-choo*
*snore* *sniff* *a-choo*
*snore* *sniff* *a-choo*

There's A Delta For Every Epsilon

Words and Music by Tom Lehrer
American Mathematical Monthly, 81 (1974) 612:

There's a delta for every epsilon,
It's a fact that you can always count upon.
There's a delta for every epsilon
And now and again,
There's also an N.

But one condition I must give:
The epsilon must be positive
A lonely life all the others live,
In no theorem
A delta for them.

How sad, how cruel, how tragic,
How pitiful, and other adjec-
Tives that I might mention.
The matter merits our attention.
If an epsilon is a hero,
Just because it is greater than zero,
It must be mighty discouragin'
To lie to the left of the origin.

This rank discrimination is not for us,
We must fight for an enlightened calculus,
Where epsilons all, both minus and plus,
Have deltas
To call their own.

The Derivative Song

Words by Tom Lehrer -- Tune: "There'll be Some Changes Made"
American Mathematical Monthly, 81 (1974) 490:

You take a function of x and you call it y,
Take any x-nought that you care to try,
You make a little change and call it delta x,
The corresponding change in y is what you find nex',
And then you take the quotient and now carefully
Send delta x to zero, and I think you'll see
That what the limit gives us, if our work all checks,
Is what we call dy/dx,
It's just dy/dx.

The Professor's Song

Words by Tom Lehrer -- Tune: "If You Give Me Your Attention"
from Princess Ida (Gilbert & Sullivan)
American Mathematical Monthly, 81 (1974) 745:

If you give me your attention, I will tell you what I am.
I'm a brilliant math'matician -- also something of a ham.
I have tried for numerous degrees, in fact I've one of each;
Of course that makes me eminently qualified to teach.
I understand the subject matter thoroughly, it's true,
And I can't see why it isn't all as obvious to you.
Each lecture is a masterpiece, meticulously planned,
Yet everybody tells me that I'm hard to understand,
And I can't think why.

My diagrams are models of true art, you must agree,
And my handwriting is famous for its legibility.
Take a word like "minimum" (to choose a random word),
{This was performed at a blackboard, and the professor wrote: /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/}
For anyone to say he cannot read that, is absurd.
The anecdotes I tell get more amusing every year,
Though frankly, what they go to prove is sometimes less than clear,
And all my explanations are quite lucid, I am sure,
Yet everybody tells me that my lectures are obscure,
And I can't think why.

Consider, for example, just the force of gravity:
It's inversely proportional to something -- let me see --
It's r^3 -- no, r^2 -- no, it's just r, I'll bet --
The sign in front is plus -- or is it minus, I forget --
Well, anyway, there is a force, of that there is no doubt.
All these formulas are trivial if you only think them out.
Yet students tell me, "I have memorized the whole year through
Ev'rything you've told us, but the problems I can't do."
And I can't think why!

I Got It From Agnes

This song was written by Tom in 1953 as "The Hospital Song" a/k/a "I Got It From Sally". He performed it at nightclub engagements throughout the 1950's, but he never included it on an album because he considered it too risque at the time. In 1980, he revised it for inclusion in the stage revue of his songs called Tomfoolery, and he now notes that, although the revision made it naughtier, it seems fairly innocent by today's standards.

The lyrics given here are from the revised Tomfoolery version. If anyone has the original lyrics, please let me know!

I love my friends, and they love me,
We're just as close as we can be.
And just because we really care,
Whatever we get, we share!

I got it from Agnes,
She got it from Jim.
We all agree it must have been
Louise who gave it to him.

She got it from Harry,
Who got it from Marie,
And everybody knows that Marie
Got it from me.

Giles got it from Daphne,
She got it from Joan,
Who picked it up in County Cork,
A-kissing the Blarney Stone.

Pierre gave it to Sheila,
Who must have brought it there.
He got it from Francois and Jacques,
Haha, Lucky Pierre!

Max got it from Edith,
Who gets it every spring.
She got it from her Daddy,
Who gives her everything.

She then gave it to Daniel,
Whose spaniel has it now.
Our dentist even got it,
And we're still wondering how.

But I got it from Agnes,
Or maybe it was Sue,
Or Millie or Billie or Gillie or Willie,
It doesn't matter who.

It might have been at the club,
Or at the pub, or in the loo,
And if you will be my friend,
Then I might...(Mind you, I said "might")...
Give it to you!

That's Mathematics

This song was originally written circa 1986 as a theme song and title for a PBS children's show on math that eventually became known as "Square One TV". The song was to the tune of "That's Entertainment".

It was rejected as the theme song, partly due to not being able to get permission to use the music of "That's Entertainment".

On July 28, 1993, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) presented a Fermat Fest in San Francisco to celebrate the fact that Andrew Wiles had proven the famous Fermat's Last Theorem, which had gone unproven for centuries. Tom was not at the fest and this song was not performed there, but he did record it on November 2, 1993, for use over the closing credits of a videotape they released of the event. At this time, Tom changed the tune a bit to avoid copyright infringement, and added the verse about Andrew Wiles. A different take was included on Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes No. 4. The Andrew Wiles verse was edited out (and the gap bridged with one newly recorded piano chord) for the box set The Remains Of Tom Lehrer.

About Fermat's Last Theorem:
Fermat had written in the margin of a notebook that he had come up with a neat little proof of the theorem, but did not have space to write it there. Since then, people many times have claimed to have proven the theorem, but have been proven wrong. It has been speculated that Fermat did not actually have a proof.

(The theorem states that for all integers n > 2, there exist no integers a, b, & c satisfying a^n + b^n = c^n, where ^ denotes exponentiation. Note that for n = 2 there ARE such integers, as this is the Pythagorean Theorem of right triangles. The rest of you can look it up when you get home.)

The sheet music for this song was published in the April, 1997 issue of Math Horizons, which is put out by the Mathematical Association of America.

Counting sheep
When you're trying to sleep,
Being fair
When there's something to share,
Being neat
When you're folding a sheet,
That's mathematics!

When a ball
Bounces off of a wall,
When you cook
From a recipe book,
When you know
How much money you owe,
That's mathematics!

How much gold can you hold in an elephant's ear?
When it's noon on the moon, then what time is it here?
If you could count for a year, would you get to infinity,
Or somewhere in that vicinity?

When you choose
How much postage to use,
When you know
What's the chance it will snow,
When you bet
And you end up in debt,
Oh try as you may,
You just can't get away
From mathematics!

Andrew Wiles gently smiles,
Does his thing, and voila!
Q.E.D., we agree,
And we all shout hurrah!
As he confirms what Fermat
Jotted down in that margin,
Which could've used some enlargin'.

Tap your feet,
Keepin' time to a beat,
Of a song
While you're singing along,
With the rest of the guys,
Yes, try as you may,
You just can't get away
From mathematics!

We Gather Together

(a/k/a "Thanksgiving Hymn")
to the tune of the traditional song of the same name.
This was performed by a quartet on "Garrison Keillor's American Radio Company" radio program, during the 1990 Thanksgiving show.

We gather together to ask the lord's blessing
For turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce.
It was slightly distressing but now we're convalescing
So sing praises to his name and forget not to floss.
Our nearest and dearest we don't mind confessing
It's sort of depressing to have them so near.
Our feelings supressing, politely acquiescing
And fervently professing we're glad they were here.
We gathered together and got the lord's blessing
Of course we're just guessing 'cause how can you tell?
Our stomach's are bloating
Our kidneys nearly floating
Hellos are very nice but goodbyes can be swell

Everybody Eat

to the tune of Irving Berlin's "Everybody Step" from the Broadway musical "Music Box Revue".
This was performed by the same people on the same radio show as the previous song.

Everybody eat!
Every niece and every nephew even if you're deaf you'll hear them digest.
Kiddies by the dozen from local zoos
Someone's second cousin but god knows whose.

Everybody feed
For example there's an uncle who when he's drunk'll be a real pest.
And cousin Julia is actin' childish to put it mildish.
Hey you kids I don't know who just did that but it's gross
Then Al begins to smoke and tells a dirty joke when Grandma's comatose.

Oh everybody's swill.
And put up with uncle Gordon video recordin' everyone here.
Now they've all gone away
And we're so happy to say
They won't be back for a year.

(I'm Spending) Hanukkah In Santa Monica

Thanks to Jeff Balch for sending this one along. According to him, this 54-second tune aired twice on "Garrison Keillor's American Radio Company" in 1990. Tom later recorded his own version for release on the box set The Remains Of Tom Lehrer.

I'm spending Hanukkah, in Santa Monica,
Wearing sandals lighting candles by the sea.
I spent Shavuos, in East St. Louis,
A charming spot but clearly not the spot for me.

Those eastern winters, I can't endure 'em,
So every year I pack my gear
And come out here to Purim.

Rosh Hashona, I spend in Arizona,
And Yom Kippa, way down in Mississippa.
But in Decemba, there's just one place for me.
'Mid the California flora,
I'll be lighting my menorah.
Every California maid'll
Find me playing with a dreidl.
Santa Monica, spending Hanukkah by the sea

The Sac Song

Tom wrote this song for the 1963 Universal-International film "A Gathering Of Eagles". It is used about an hour and fifteen minutes into that film. It is sung by the character Hollis Farr (played by Rod Taylor, Rock Hudson's co-star in the film), who accompanies himself on the piano. About 45 seconds are used in the film, though about a minute and a half was written. This is the part used in the film.

An officer named Jackson at Beale Air Force Base in Marysville, CA (where the film was done) made a recording of Tom singing the full version of the song, but these lyrics have not yet surfaced. One known expurgated couplet is:
Every time we hear that Klaxon,
We say a few words in Anglo-Saxon.
This refers to cursing whenever the alarm bell would sound.

The song is best understood in the context of the film. An O.R.I. is a no-notice Operational Readiness Inspection. S.A.C. is the Strategic Air Command.

Here at S.A.C. we're filled with pride.
There's just one thing we can't decide:
Which we'd rather get clobbered by,
An enemy attack or an O.R.I.

Our wing commander's got a racket,
Though sometimes it's hard to hack it.
Whenever he gets his wife alone,
Ding-a-ling-a-ling goes the little red phone.

Oh, we love the seven-day alert.
For a week we will not see a skirt.
But we know it's part of S.A.C.'s main goal:
To test our positive control.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Whatever became of the wild blue yonder?
How we wish the good ol' days were back
In S.A.C.!

Now Then Are There Any Questions

To the tune of the Mozart canon "O, Du Eselhafter Martin".
This was the closing song in "The Physical Revue", a series of songs performed by Lehrer and his cohorts in 1951 and 1952 at Harvard University. The show was done first on January 13 & 22, 1951, in Jefferson Laboratory 250, and was slightly revised and performed again the next year (with a different cast), on May 26, 1952, at Allston Burr Hall.

The title of the show was a play on a physics journal called "The Physical Review". Among the other songs included in the show were "A Liter And A Gram" (a/k/a "Physicist's Love Song"; parody of "A Bushel And A Peck"), "Dodging The Draft At Harvard", "The Derivative Song", "The Slide Rule Song", "The Wild West Is Where I Want To Be", "Lobachevsky", and "Fight Fiercely Harvard", plus "There's A Delta For Every Epsilon", "The Professor's Song", and "The Elements".

"Now Then Are There Any Questions" was performed in a round, with Tom and other graduate students doing the four student parts, and professor Lewis Branscomb (in the 1951 presentation) as the professor. A different person played the professor in 1952.

Tom says that at least one performance of the 1951 "Physical Revue" was recorded on a wire recorder by Norman Ramsey (later a Nobel Prize winning physicist).

The 1952 performance was also recorded by someone else.

For the 100th anniversary of "The Physical Review" (the journal), there was a reunion of some performers from "The Physical Revue" (including Lewis, though not including Tom) on April 13, 1993, in Washington, D.C., and they performed "Songs of the Physical Revue" during a meeting of the American Physical Society.

I do not know who wrote the following transcription and comments. I found it on ftp.uwp.edu, but there was unfortunately no name attached to it. If it was you, please let me know! There are some misremembered facts here, like the year, location, and what Tom's part was, but it is still intereting to read. Tom also says that the piano used was an upright (not a grand) and that he was definitely not dressed in tails.

"As a visiting prof in '64(?), Lehrer presented the final class session in one of the undergrad physics courses.

Anyway, the class met in a physics lecture hall like Varian 100 or 101 in the Tank, with electrically operated blackboards. When this last special session was held, the lecture table had been rolled out, and a grand piano rolled in. The electric blackboards had been painted with colored chalk to look exactly like the proscenium and curtains at the Boston Symphony. The room was packed with everyone in the Department.

Lehrer came in, in tails as I remember, dramatically punched the button that made the "curtains" go up, underneath was written in large letters "The Physical Revue", and he began an hour's worth of just that. Besides the "Derivative Song" (I think), there was certainly the "Periodic Table" song, Lobachevsky, and a round, sung with four associates, which I've never encountered since, which had Lehrer as professor and the others as students singing"

Now then, are there any questions? (G G G-G-G-G E C)
Now then, are there any questions? (ditto)
If there are none, (C C C A)
Then I am done (C C C G)
(And I have nothing more to say-ay) (E D C B D C A D C)

(Last line not sure about, and also the music may be wrong)

First student:

Man, he asks if there are questions
Man, I've got a million questions
I've got a ton,
And every one,
Would take a half a day to ans-wer.

There may have been more verses; I don't remember. If someone else knows of this, I'd be delighted to hear of a place to locate it. (It may have been a follow-on to the "Professor's Song"?)

The only other Lehrer in my repertoire is "An awful debility, a lessened utility, a loss of mobility, is a strong possibility,..." ...which unfortunately begins to strike closer to home every year...

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