Tom Lehrer – “Sociology”

December 18, 2022
Posted by Jay Livingston

Tom Lehrer has put all his songs online and has ceded all copyright protection.

Performing and recording rights to all of my songs are included in this permission. Translation rights are also included. In particular, permission is hereby granted to anyone to set any of these lyrics to their own music, or to set any of this music to their own lyrics, and to publish or perform their parodies or distortions of these songs without payment or fear of legal action. [The full statement and the songs are here.]

In the movie White Christmas, Danny Kaye sings a song called “choreography.” It’s  not the most famous Irving Berlin song from this movie (guess what is). You’ve probably never heard of it. It’s gently satirical — a  commentary on the pretentiousness of hoofers in the dance biz. Once, they simply spoke of “dancing”; now they prefer the inflated term “choreography.”

Lehrer used Berlin’s melody and the structure of the song to do a similar skewering of quantitative social science. His target, as he explains in the introduction in this video, was really political science, but you can’t swap out “choreography” in the Berlin song and replace it with “political science.” “Sociology,” on the other hand is a perfect fit.

1 comment:

arnie said...

Your blog brought back memories of days gone bye.

I’ve always been a fan of Tom Lehrer going back to the 1960’s when he was a regular on the NBC TV show “That Was The Week That Was” hosted by David Frost.

The satirical TV show was a precursor to “Laugh-In” and “Saturday Night Live.”

Among my favorite Lehrer parodies are National Brotherhood Week, The Vatican Rag and Pollution.