Arts & Events

The Lowdown on Ira Marlowe:
The Love Child of Tom Waits and Tom Lehrer

By Gar Smith
Wednesday April 13, 2011 - 11:27:00 AM
Ira Marlowe
Ira Marlowe

Forgive me for being behind the curve, but I’ve just discovered an incandescent klieg light buried in the Bay Area’s sub-cultural bushes. For anyone who hasn’t yet heard about Ira Marlowe, listen up. (The best way to do that, by the way, is to tap into his Website — — for some samples or, even better, show up at one of his next two local gigs — the first is coming up this Saturday in Berkeley. See below for details). 

Marlowe writes amusing, educational Brainy Tunes for kids and he also pens wondrous stuff that appeals to adult gray matter — including a host of boisterous ballads that are socio-politically provocative and/or laugh-out-loud hilarious. 

Critics have had a field day trying to describe his work. He’s been compared to Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Elvis Costello, Phil Ochs, Tom Leherer and Allan Sherman. Marlowe and his Bodacious Band have performed at Slims, The Fillmore, the Great American Music Hall and Marlowe has released a half-dozen CDs, including “Save the Day,” “The Doubter’s Bible,” “The Nashville Delusion,” and “Songs from the House of Wax.” 

I stumbled across Marlowe’s work while collecting protest videos from the streets of Cairo, Sanaa, Aden and Teheran. Marlowe had written a song in honor of WikiLeaks called “Secrets,” which he turned it into a powerful video that’s been piling up the hits on YouTube. Check it out (and see the content footnote at the end of this review). 

Music critic Michael Laskow has called Marlowe “One of the three or four best lyricists on the planet.” 

Last October, the Chronicle praised Marlowe as “Oakland’s sweet little secret” and predicted: “There will soon be a time when he completely blows up, Tom Waits-style and you can say you saw him when.” 



Art House Gallery 

2905 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 


Appearing with bandmates Michael Olaf, Roger Linn and Adam Lowdermilk. 

7:30 PM $10 



Angelica’s Bistro 

863 Main Street, Redwood City 

(650) 365-3226 

Dinner Show 6 -8 PM 

$6 advance w/ reservation 


Marlowe’s song, “Secrets” manages to pay powerful homage to more than 40 individuals believed to have died at the hands of political assassins: Namir Noor-Eldeen, Reuters photographer killed 7/12/07), Mohandas K Gandhi (Indian independence leader), Robert F. Kennedy (US Senator (D-NY), Martin Luther King, Jr. (American civil rights leader), Benazir Bhutto (former Prime Minister of Pakistan), Anwar Sadat (President of Egypt), Yitzhak Rabin (Prime Minister of Israel), Medgar Evers (American civil rights activist), John Lennon (British musician and activist), John Brown (American abolitionist), Paolo Borsellino (Italian anti-mafia judge), Veronica Guerin (Irish journalist), Stephen Biko (South African anti-aparthieid leader), Dorothy Stang (American nun, killed by Brazilian business interests), Alexander Litvinenko (Russian critic of Vladimir Putin), Indira Gandhi (Indian prime minister), Jacques Roche (Haitian journalist), Olof Palme (Swedish prime minister), Karen Slikwood (American whistle-blower), Abraham Lincoln (American president), Paul Wellstone (US Senator (D-MN), Dian Fossey (primatologist and animal-rights activist), Chico Mendes (Brazilian environmental activist), Sergio Vieira de Mello (Brazilian, UN Special Representative in Iraq), Natalia Estemirova (Russian human rights activist), John Granville (Diplomat, US Agency for International Development), Georgiy Gongadze (Ukrainian journalist), Benigno Aquino, Jr. (Philippine opposition leader), Elijah P. Lovejoy (abolitionist and journalist), Anna Lindh (Swedish foreign affairs minister), Wen Yiduo (Chinese poet and scholar), Dele Giwa (Nigerian journalist), Petra Kelly (German Green Party Leader, Yuri Shchekochikhin (Russian journalist), Lasantha Wickrematunge (Sri Lankan journalist), Kalogiannis, Konca KuriÅŸ (Turkish Islamic feminist), Vladimir Herzog (Brazillian journalist), Munir Said Thalib (Indonesian human rights and anti-corruption activist), Grigoris Lambrakis (leader of anti-fascist movement in Greece), Salman Taseer (Pakistani governor, opposed anti-blasphemy laws).