Songs that made me cry seeing Hamilton Chicago last night:
It’s Quiet Uptown
Who Lives Who Dies Who Tells Your Story
One Last Time
It was April 2016, and I found myself with a roommate who couldn’t believe I hadn’t listened to Hamilton yet and a half hour commute by colectivo to and from class in Buenos Aires. So, begrudgingly, I jumped on board the trend train and downloaded the soundtrack. And my life has never been the same.
Think about it: music, history, and intricate writing all put together on the same stage (or in the same songs). It unites some of my strongest passions, and it quickly became my soundtrack to the city during my time in Buenos Aires. I listened to it on the busses, as I walked, as I got ready in the tiny bathroom in the morning, and at night when I couldn’t fall asleep. I lived and breathed the characters and the lyrics of Hamilton at the same time that I was living and breathing a new, truer sense of self that God was calling me to step into. My friend Dawson spent two weeks calling me Aaron Burr, Sir. The Schuyler Sisters reminded me what I loved about the city. I listened to Wait For It as I slogged home in the spitting rain one day, and it sums up that moment perfectly in my memory. Obviously, songs like Burn and Stay Alive and The World Was Wide Enough and my all-time, hands-down favorite, Satisfied, pull at the heartstrings.
Yep, the whole album is flawless. But there’s one song that stands apart in my mind. Non-Stop was my song for confidence, because of this one line-
How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive?
How do you write like you need it to survive?
How do you write every second you’re alive?
The music hits its peak here, the full ensemble backs up Burr’s voice, and the words couldn’t speak more deeply to my soul. I am telling stories in my head every second that I move through the world, for better or worse. Writing is the same basic function for my brain as breathing, and I love that.
One song that never clicked with me until last night, when I saw it live, is Hurricane. It’s the only solo song for Alexander Hamilton in the entire production, and it essentially establishes that he’s about to dig himself deeper into a hole he’s already tripped into headfirst. Yet watching it unfold live- with the lights, the pause between each note, and the ensemble’s choreography – it’s really a song about why Hamilton writes. In the face of every obstacle, throughout his whole life, he’s picked up a pen. And when there weren’t even any obstacles, he was so bent on leaving a legacy that he wrote his own problems into existence. It was an escape that only sucked him deeper into whatever was holding him captive.
Maybe that’s getting a little deep for Broadway, but in the moment I processed that, I flashed back to the climax of Non-Stop and wondered – why do I write? Why is this thing so ingrained in the who and how I am in the world?
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t ever written my own problems into existence, or written myself deeper into one, inside my head if not out loud. Yet I don’t think the reason I write is to escape, or to leave any sort of legacy.
I write to get to know my own mind. I tell stories because I believe they matter, and I want to know why and how. At worst I write for the sake of writing, but at best I write for the joy.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the musical Hamilton, has described it as a “love letter to writers” in its own way. And it is. Every moment has its worth in capturing, in putting words to, and at the end of it all, you have to know why you’re doing it for it to be worth anything at all.
And I know that I’ll see that show a thousand times more in my lifetime. To relive every moment and memory that I’ve connected with the songs – and to remind me why I write.
Huge thank you to my wonderful parents for the tickets!!!