I am allowed to love both Hamilton and 1776, the musicals?
But I am torn because 1776 had a major influence on my teen years, and inspired me to write my own musical about women’s rights. I love Hamilton’s rapid wordplay, commentary on immigration, and accessibility to modern audiences. But I worry, when I talk to my youth at work (who can -and do – break into long passages of Hamilton at the slightest provocation) that while they will gain respect for Hamilton’s contributions they will lose all respect for other founding fathers (namely John Adams, one of my favorites). The only character who comes off looking at least okay in both musicals is George Washington.
I suppose it can’t be helped. 1776 is told from John’s POV, and Hamilton from…well duh. And they were both opinionated, flawed, ambitious individuals. They weren’t exactly in sync with each other.
Both musicals, ironically, deal with the question of the main character being forgotten to history.
In 1776, John Adams predicts that Benjamin Franklin and Washington will be credited for the Revolution.
“Franklin smote the ground and out sprang—George Washington. Fully grown, and on his horse. Franklin then electrified them with his magnificent lightning rod and the three of them—Franklin, Washington, and the horse—conducted the entire Revolution all by themselves.”
And the entire musical of Hamilton ends with the Song “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.”
“Every other founding father gets to grow old.
Every other founding father’s story gets told.”
And throughout the musical, we hear “You have no control who tells your story.”
So today, on Independence Day, I guess I would just hope we look at the Revolution as an event that didn’t involve just one or two “great men of history” (or even “great women of history,” thank you very much Abigail Adams). The Revolution took the lives of thousands of complex people, their stories, dreams, and flaws interwoven into history. Some, nameless, perished on the battlefield of war or public opinion. But all deserve our attention on this day.
Yes, yes, I hear you saying, “Sit down, John.” I climb off my soapbox. Happy Independence Day, all! Go celebrate with fireworks – and maybe a musical.