Buttkickin’ Halloween Songs: “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” — Tom Lehrer (1959)

We’ve gained notoriety
And caused much anxiety
In the Audubon Society
With our games
They call it impiety
And lack of propriety
And quite a variety
Of unpleasant names
But it’s not against any religion
To want to dispose of a pigeon

Tom Lehrer is a national freakin’ treasure and anyone who says otherwise should be split open, vertically, with two rusty chainsaws.

OK fine, I take that back. Geeze, I’ve had a morning.

Of course, I only take back the bit about the chainsaws, because Lehrer is indeed a treasure and, as of this writing, is still with us at the zesty age of 94. A Harvard grad and renown professor of such subjects as political science, mathematics, and musical theater, he also claims to have invented to the Jello Shot for which we are entirely grateful.

(As an aside, all of Tom’s lyrics and music are essentially in the public domain and free to use by anyone for any reason, anywhere. How cool is that?)

But to most, Lehrer is well-known for his music, a treasure trove of musical satire the likes of which have become as much a part of the Great American Songbook as anything by Berlin, Gershwin, Ellington, or Humperdinck. Previously we featured his gleefully romantic The Masochism Tango, and we’ll continue today with another magnificent piece of dark humor with Poisioning Pigeons In the Park.

Before your cankles raise, this of course is satire. Meaning there was an real-life effort by the city of Boston to control their pigeon population by — hold on to your ass — using cyanide to kill pigeons. In the park.

Within that milieu Lehrer takes this scenario and weaves a beautiful waltz around it, turning a smashing day with the one you love in a lovely bucolic setting into a romantic exercise in pigeocide.

Naturally, it’s brilliant. Lehrer’s songwriting skills, turn of phrase, gift of wordplay, and of course musical showmanship are all brought into the forefront in high and hilarious relief.

So by all means, enjoy your time Poisoning Pigeons In The Park. Perfidious pastoral perplexity never plainly proceeded so politely.

We’ll murder them all
Amid laughter and merriment
Except for the few
We take home to experiment
My pulse will be quickenin’
With each drop of strychnine
We feed to a pigeon
(It just takes a smidgin!)
To poison a pigeon in the park

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