Hamilton and Hip-Hop

~posted by Karen D.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron ChernowI did not do well in my high school history class.  As a matter of fact I received a failing mark.

Since then, however, I’ve had a lot of fun reading my own selection of books about history.  Some of these books have grabbed and kept my interest throughout the reading by giving me a sense of what life was like when certain events were going on, a view into the thoughts of those in the middle of the “historical events”.

Lately my interest has been piqued by Lin-Manuel Miranda.  He came across a book about Alexander Hamilton and became so inspired by what he read that he created an entire Broadway musical from it – featuring hip-hop!

The book was Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. The musical is Hamilton, now playing to rave reviews on Broadway.

In a recent interview on Charlie Rose: The Week, Mr. Miranda talked about reading the first couple of chapters of the book and thinking it was “the quintessential hip-hop narrative – this is someone who grew up in hard times and wrote his way out of his circumstances”.

The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr by H.W. BrandsHe also talked about the musical theater tradition of having the antagonist narrating the story as in the Andrew Lloyd Webber productions – Judas narrating Jesus Christ Super Star and Che Guevara narrating Evita.  Miranda knew he wanted to have Aaron Burr be the narrator but that meant he needed to learn more about him.  The book he chose as his guide was The Heartbreak of Aaron Burr, by H. W. Brands.

The opening number of the show is sung by Aaron Burr. In the Broadway production this part is played by Leslie Odom Jr., but 6 years ago Lin-Manuel Miranda performed it at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word.

Now that’s what I call a history lesson!

This entry was posted in History and Biography, Nonfiction, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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