An Open Letter to Lin-Manuel Miranda

An Open Letter to Lin-Manuel Miranda
James and Gina Warda ready to take in the Chicago production of "Hamilton"

Ok, so I know you probably weren’t expecting a letter from me, Lin. And, even more than that, I’m guessing you probably don’t know who I am.

To give you some backstory, my daughter first introduced me to “Hamilton” a while back. One night, she played a couple of the songs for my wife and me. And from that moment, I was hooked. You see, not only am I a world-famous writer (well, maybe not world famous, possibly more locally famous within several blocks of my house), but I’m also a musician. So, you can imagine why I was hooked.

Soon, though, I was more than hooked. I was obsessed. Which, if I were a teenage girl, might be expected. But as a 52-year-old man, it can be a little hard to explain. To illustrate the level of my obsession, at one point, I was reading Ron Chernow’s “Hamilton” biography, then going for a run while I listened to your Broadway cast recording or one of the NPR podcasts about the musical, followed by working around the house while listening to “The Hamilton Mixtape.” I’d also catch “Hamilton” documentaries on TV, and also started following you on Twitter, realizing by doing so that you’re a good guy who has somehow stayed sane within the madness. As I said, I was obsessed.

Which got me thinking. Why was I obsessed? Why are so many obsessed? What exactly is it?

And I believe I have the answer.

It’s truth.

Now, I don’t mean it’s true. Though I do believe that, after reading Chernow’s book, everything in your musical, or almost everything in it, is historically true.

I mean it’s truth.

Meaning it comes from a place of sincerity. I can feel that.

You believe in it.

Which means that, like all great art, it also comes from a place of passion. From a place that says, “Damn it, this is what I see. What I feel. What I know. And I’m going to tell you it until I can’t speak, until I can’t breathe, until I can’t type anymore, until the blood runs from my fingertips and pools upon the page. And then, once I get my breath back, I’m going to start telling you again. But, this time, even louder.”

And here’s the most real way I know it’s true.

Because, every time I listen to “It’s Quiet Uptown,” which of course, is about how the Hamilton’s not only dealt with the death of their son but also with trying to come back together after Alexander’s betrayal, I’m close to tears if not actually crying. Now, that’s an embarrassing thing to admit. In fact, when my wife and I went to see “Hamilton,” it hit me that way again, but even harder, as I looked around and noticed I was surrounded by teenage girls also crying. So, I felt like I had to explain it to my wife later, because as we all know, big boys don’t cry.

I told her that there is something in that song that hits the smack dab center of some painful stuff in my childhood, a place so many of us have in different forms. Stuff I’m working through. And it hits there because it’s true, because it beautifully evokes grief, with its haunting music and lyrics, most especially, “If you see him in the street, walking by himself, talking to himself, have pity, he is working through the unimaginable.”

Yes, people love “Hamilton” because of the story, the music, the lyrics, the dancers, the voices, the set and more. And those things are definitely important. But, for me, I believe the thing that is most resonating with people is its truth. Which, in the end, is simply another word for love.

So, thank you, Lin. You did what a great artist is supposed to do. Channel something for us from a bigger place to help us make sense of our own hearts.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that when you do, you also bring the funk.

Bravo.

Take care,

James

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