Celebrate Harry Potter’s Birthday with Song. Daniel Radcliffe Sings Tom Lehrer’s Tune, The Elements.

Some child actors are unendearing, snarky types (think Selena Gomez or a young Dakota Fanning). Others, you root for because even if they’re cloying they seem real (Haley Joel Osment comes to mind).

Daniel Radcliffe, who was most certainly a child when he was cast as Harry Potter at 11, may fall more into the second camp. He’s as hapless and earnest as Harry, and it turns out that he’s endearingly nerdier in real life than Harry himself could ever be.

Radcliffe, who celebrated his 23rd birthday this week, sealed his fate as a bit of an anorak when he appeared on the BBC’s Graham Norton Show and nervously sang Tom Lehrer’s song The Elements.

Maybe Radcliffe’s best subject at Hogwarts would have been potions. On television he admits to being a little nervous before launching into the homage to Lehrer, explaining that he’d stayed up all night trying to memorize the song. One of Lehrer’s classics, it actually sets the periodic table of elements to music. In the best versions, Lehrer accompanies himself on piano while reciting all of the chemical elements known at the time of writing (1959) to the tune of a Gilbert and Sullivan melody.

Harry Potter’s birthday is next week (July 31), the same day author J.K. Rowling celebrates hers. Perhaps Potter fans could cook up a birthday celebration for Potter involving a song about lawrencium, which was added to the periodic table two years after Lehrer wrote his song. As he cleverly noted himself at the end of the tune,

These are the only ones of which the news has come to Ha’vard,

And there may be many others, but they haven’t been discavard

Good stuff. Worthy of the boy who survived.

Kate Rix is an Oakland-based freelance writer. See more of her work at katerixwriter.com.


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