June Favorites: Hamilton Edition
It’s been a while since I’ve done a monthly favorites post. When I was thinking through what I have been really into lately, there is one thing that stood out like a sore thumb – Hamilton. As in the record-breaking Tony-winning Broadway musical and cultural phenomenon Hamilton. I am obsessed unlike anything since my obsession with New Kids on the Block back in 1989. In fact, if you even bring up the topic, there is a chance you might see me go all Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch excited. And I have never even SEEN the show (yet)!!
For those of you not familiar with the show or have heard of it but don’t understand what all the hoopla is about, let me attempt to briefly explain. Be warned, the explanation of what it is doesn’t it sell it very well. This show is the story of Alexander Hamilton and the birth of the United States of America, told through the lens and language of America today. The music is infectious to say the least. The storyline captivating and moving on countless levels.
If you have heard of Hamilton, but doubt that you would like it, let me ask if you fit into any of these categories:
Fan of history?
Fan of theater?
Fan of rap or hip-hop?
Fan of music period?
Fan of politics?
Fan of incredible storytelling?
If you answered yes to any of these, then you should go ahead and take the day off to get start experiencing Hamilton for yourself. I’m serious. To help you in that endeavor, I’ve rounded up some of my Hamilton favorites for you. These are the links, videos and articles I have gone back to again and again just for fun.
If you have never listened to the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Hamilton, this is where it is at and where you should begin. Unlike a movie soundtrack or other musicals, Hamilton is a sung-through musical. What that means is that you get the whole story just listening to the music. Most musicals have talking with songs in between. Not the case with Hamilton. You are following the story just by listening to the music.
The best way to experience what the hype is all about is to download the album on whatever device you can. If you just want to try out a few songs, maybe start with these:
These are some of the most infectious songs. The ones that got us hooked on listening. Pretty soon, you’ll start listening to the other songs, then get hooked into the story, and then you will be a goner. Like me.
You might have noticed the parental advisory warning on the album cover. There are definitely a few colorful words in some of the songs. And one adult situation. If you have kids, I would encourage you to listen to a bit and then decide for yourself what age you think the music is appropriate for. Our boys are 8 and (almost) 10, and we made the choice to let them listen to it because we feel they are way better off having listened than not. Both kids already know more about Revolutionary history, founding fathers and the birth of this nation than most adults. But you might need to make that judgment for yourself.
Favorite Documentary: PBS’ Hamilton’s America
My first true understanding of what Hamilton was and the genius of its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, was by watching Hamilton’s America on PBS last fall. Thank goodness that my mom has cable (we don’t) and recorded it for us to watch. The documentary is almost as brilliant as the story. You get to follow along with Miranda in the years leading up to the play as he is writing these brilliant songs and creating this show. Weaved into the documentary are interviews with past presidents and current historians telling the biographical story of Alexander Hamilton. Having very little knowledge of Hamilton when I saw this, I still loved it.
We recently signed up for a monthly digital membership to PBS for the sole purpose of watching this documentary – again. If you ever see this documentary pop up on your TV guide, do not miss watching it.
Favorite Book – Hamilton: The Revolution
Soon after you are listening to the music, you will want to get your hands on this gorgeous book. Not to be confused with the Ron Chernow biography of Alexander Hamilton that inspired the musical, this book is something completely different. Hamilton: The Revolution is co-written Hamilton creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. The book contains a goldmine of behind -the-scenes stories of how this cultural phenomenon was created. But…the pièce de résistance? The lyrics to all 46 Hamilton soundtrack songs with footnotes from Miranda explaining all the different lines and how they reference particular historical situations or rap classics. Fascinating!
I mentioned it earlier, but I have spent an embarrassing amount of time over the past two months watching anything related to Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Among the hundred or so clips I have watched, there are a few the boys and I keep going back to.
Favorite YouTube Videos – 2009 Performance at the White House and”One Last Time” at the White House
The first is the 2009 performance by Lin-Manuel Miranda at the White House. You see, Miranda had just recently finished creating and starring in his first Broadway show, “In the Heights.” So, the newly inaugurated president had invited the musical phenom to come perform something from “In the Heights” at a poetry jam they were hosting. When the organizers of the event asked Miranda if he had anything on the American experience, he performed a little rap he had been working on for a concept album on the life of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. You can tell the audience is nervously unsure of what they are listening to at the beginning, but by the end of his performance, they are all on their feet. 9 years later, this “idea” had become what will surely be the most popular Broadway musical of all time.
The second video I have to share we have watched at least a dozen times. In 2016, the Obamas invited the entire cast and musicians of Hamilton for a day of workshops with young students and performances. While there are a bunch of clips from this day we love, I had to show you Chris Jackson (George Washington) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Alexander Hamilton) performing “One Last Time”. This particular song is one of my favorites, as the beloved George Washington asks Alexander Hamilton to write his resignation letter telling the American people he is stepping down from the presidency. The song is moving song by itself, but you can tell the emotion is heightened significantly by the setting. The last part they sing is the actual words from George Washington’s letter.
Favorite apparel item: Young Scrappy and Hungry T-Shirt by Stately Type
Once you are fully ensconced in the world that is Hamilton, you will be ready for something to throw on to show your colonial pride. That’s where this fun t-shirt from Stately Type would be perfect. “Young scrappy and hungry” refers to this lyric in “My Shot”:
“Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy and hungry
And I’m not throwing away my shot!”
It’s such a great line that represents the grit and determination it took for an immigrant like Hamilton to make it to the ranks he did in this country. Just like the grit and determination it took for those 13 colonies to actually overthrow Great Britain.
The best part of falling in love with this incredible work of art has been the joy it has brought us. We are constantly singing together, discussing these characters and wondering “what if” together. Our visit to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia in May was that much more meaningful because we knew the significance of what we were seeing.
Have you heard all the Hamilton buzz or any of the music? Do you love it too? Let me know so we can chat it up!