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 .

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