By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Sung in the style of an Elvis Presley ballad, complete with a lip curl, Zimmerman throws out lines such as “I love you because you really listen” and “when I'm on the phone, I never feel alone because you are out there on your headphones.”
Zimmerman, who lives in San Anselmo, Calif., will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday at Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2333 San Juan Ave.
Admission to the show is a suggested donation of $18 at the door.
“I play a lot of Unitarian churches,” said Zimmerman, 55.
“It's where you find a lot of audiences that are both politically engaged and spiritually confused, and they are good places to bring people together who are willing to laugh.”
Zimmerman is a topical songwriter in the vein of the late Phil Ochs and Tom Lehrer, writing satirical tunes that tie into the headlines as they strive to make the audience laugh.
He had a head start on “Hello, NSA.” It is an update of a song he wrote more than 10 years ago when similar invasion-of-privacy allegations were leveled against the George W. Bush administration.
“This is a song that I am sorry to resurrect,” he said.
As for the Elvis intonation, he said, “I look for the appropriate chord changes, so the music conspires to tell the same joke as the lyrics.”
Zimmerman's songs are written from the point of view of the political left, while poking fun at that group's tendency to take itself too seriously.
“People always want to laugh, not only at the opposition but at themselves,” Zimmerman said.
“I get some right-leaning people coming up after the show and say they don't agree with me, but I don't get any contention or disrespect.”
Since Zimmerman's shows attract a left-leaning crowd, he has been characterized as preaching to the converted, but he thinks a more appropriate description is that he is “rallying the troops.”
Zimmerman has released 13 albums over 20 years. His songs have been heard on HBO and Showtime, and he was profiled on NPR's “All Things Considered.”
His YouTube videos have amassed more than 7 million views combined.
In 2012, he traveled 47,000 miles to complete a “50-state tour” that omitted Hawaii.
Much of Zimmerman's audience isn't familiar with Lehrer, a mathematics professor who wrote satirical songs with a Tin Pan Alley flavor or Ochs, a singer-songwriter who was a part of the 1960s folk music movement and committed suicide in 1976.
Zimmerman hopes Ochs is remembered not only for his topical songs but for a sense of humor.
“He could be really funny on-stage, almost like a stand-up comedian,” Zimmerman said of Ochs.
“Although he did wear his heart on his sleeve.”
To view “Hello, NSA,” visit http://tinyurl.com/youtubehellonsa.
For more information, phone 360-379-0609.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.