Tom Lehrer and Georg Kreisler

On the Internet are several discussions about whether the Austrian artist Georg Kreisler "borrowed" the Tom Lehrer song "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park". Kreisler wrote a song called "Tauben Vergiften im Park" with a different melody, but with a lyrical content very similar to Lehrer's song. Here is what Tom Lehrer had to say about Kreisler in an interview some years ago.

The interview

TL: Kreisler, yes, George Kreisler, his German name is Georg. He is a Viennese artist who stole two of my songs.

ME: Like "Poisoning Pigeons In The Park"?

TL: Yeah, he has his own tune. He doesn't use my tune. It's not my song. There was nothing I could do about it, really. I mean, what the heck.

ME: Is it the same words, do you know?

TL: The idea's the same. I don't know German well enough to get it, but the idea's the same. But it's a waltz; it's the same kind of song. And in fact, when I got over there, they thought that I had stolen it from him, so I was able to, on my TV show there, which I did, I was able to get a dig at him, which was very nice. Instead of yelling, instead of criticizing him, I said that I would like to thank George Kreisler for introducing my songs to the German public.


TL: They all got it, because they thought that I had stolen from him. And the other one is "I Hold Your Hand In Mine", which is called "Die Hand" or "Der Hand", I forget which gender it is. It's almost exactly the same, but the tune is quite different. In fact, I like his tune better than mine :-)

ME: Oh really? Interesting.

TL: So, there we are. But there was nothing I could do about that, really, and I didn't care.

ME: When would that have been?

TL: That would've been...I don't think they put dates on records in those days...

ME: I know, it's really annoying they didn't.

TL: It would be certainly like late 50's. Let's see, this one says...Vienna Midnight Cabaret with George Kreisler. No, there's no date, but it's a 10" LP, so therefore, it was some time ago. He also stole a song from Eva Burrows, "The Girl With The Three Blue Eyes". And...let's see if there's any date on the record here. I don't see any. So, who knows? Anyway, it was late 50's, my guess would be. And he couldn' was before '59, as a matter of fact! I mean, "The Hand" wasn't. "Poisoning Pigeons" was before I had made MY recording, which was very strange to me.

ME: Ooh!

TL: So it must've been that he heard me do it in New York, or heard somebody describe it, or something, because it was definitely before I recorded it. I had been performing it for years, but I had not recorded it. So he got somebody...and the tune is, I mean, anybody could do it, if you got the idea and the waltz tune and all that. No, there's no date on this 10", which is the original one, Vienna Midnight Cabaret. I asked if he was still alive, somebody, but nobody could find out. And the other one, the other one was a 12", and...anyway. So that was, yeah, it would've been before '59, the Kreisler one, so...who knows? Anyway, next? When I find it, I'll...oh wait a minute, this looks familiar. Yeah, here we are. Die Georg Kreisler Platte. No, there's still no date on it. Made in Austria.

The comment

The question about "who was inspired by who" isn't a big deal now. First and foremost because the two artists didn't even use the same melodies and we're also talking about two different languages here. But it is a fact that whereas Georg Kreisler spent his life as an artist and musician, Tom Lehrer was never interested in making a "career" as a comedian, musician or entertainer. So why would he bother to "steal" songs or ideas?

It is a proven (and witnessed) fact that Tom Lehrer performed the songs in question years before songs with similar lyrics (themes) appeared on Georg Kreisler's records.

But Lehrer spent most of his life doing what he wanted to do, and that was to teach mathematics at different universities. On the other hand, he was very candid and open about his use of other people's tunes. Yes, he borrowed one or two, but was also quick to give credit. Please use the links below and listen to Tom Lehrer talking about his music on BBC Radio 2.

Tom Lehrer was - and will always be - the original, and people can't be fooled. In a little more than 18 months he got two million song views on this one YouTube channel alone. We're talking about a man who has done nothing new in comedy or music since 1965! Georg Kreisler has also had some interest on YouTube, but Lehrer is in another league, and this is not only a language question.

Lehrer is the true original and people get the picture.

The links

Visit the forum where this interview was posted, click HERE.

Read a blog about the Kreisler/Lehrer discussion, click HERE.

Check out the Kreisler/Lehrer hits in Google, click HERE.

Check out the Georg Kreisler hits on YouTube, click HERE.

Listen to Tom Lehrer on BBC Radio 2 HERE.

YouTube has several Lehrer channels. Use the links below.

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