Playlist #43: Presidents’ Day

Happy Presidents’ Day, ‘Murica! Here’s some executive branch love in aural form. And hey, don’t forget I’ve got a Patreon, where February’s song is about to drop!

  1. They Might Be Giants, “James K. Polk”: Educational, entertaining, and a banger. Yup, it’s a TMBG song, alright.
  2. The Presidents of the United States of America, “Lump”: I get exhausted just typing out the name of the band. Thank goodness the song title is so short.
  3. Hamilton, “History Has Its Eyes On You”: The only song from the show I can play on the guitar, and a great vocal delivery from Christopher Jackson.
  4. Mark Knopfler, “Don’t Crash The Ambulance”: A changing of the guard. A handing over of the keys to the kingdom. And a brief explanation of just how things work around here.
  5. The National, “Mr. November”: “I was carried in the arms of cheerleaders.”
  6. Billy Bragg & Wilco, “Jesus Christ For President”: We could do worse, honestly.
  7. Molly Lewis, “Our American Cousin”: A three-part look at Mr. Lincoln’s infamous trip to the theatre. Funny and dark and heartbreaking.
  8. XTC, “Here Comes President Kill Again”: The ’80s? Subtle? No.
  9. Drive-By Truckers, “The President’s Penis Is Missing”: A damn tragedy, to be sure.
  10. Over The Rhine, “If A Song Could Be President”: Again, we could do worse. And I have a whole murderer’s row of talent in mind for the Cabinet.

Favoites: Hamilton, An American Musical

I did a lot of theater in high school: Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Mousetrap, Wizard of Oz…it was a lot of fun, and helped me break out of my introverted shell.  I was a quiet kid, surprise surprise.

I never did well in any of the singing stuff (I had one of the few non-singing parts in Oz, as the ol’ wizard himself), but I always kind of enjoyed musicals.  Sure, they’re kinda ridiculous, but in my own experience it’s not uncommon for folks to break out into random song and dance.

All that said, I really haven’t ever paid much attention to musical theater.  It’s not that I have anything against most musicals, just that they never really seemed my style.  Rent was okay, Sweeny Todd was pretty excellent, but none of them ever grabbed me the way that so many of my theater friends were grabbed by musicals.

Then I heard Hamilton.

I’d heard a bunch of buzz about it late last year, seen people talking it up and heard everyone who had heard/seen it raving.  So I gave it a listen over Winter Break 2015.

First listen through didn’t really grab me, but I wasn’t paying very close attention.  Then I listened again.  And again.  And again.

And again and again and again.  Over and over.  I was hooked, and bad.  The last half-dozen songs put me in tears every time.  I drew several comics about the show.  Obsessed over it.  Started following Lin-Maneul Miranda (the writer and star of the show) on Twitter.

And then, in Februrary, I got to see it.

A dear friend – my musical partner, Emily – won free tickets (!) to see the show, with all of the original cast.  Sure, it was standing-room-only spots, deep under the balcony and behind a couple of posts, but we were there.  And we sang along, and I cried during the last several songs like I always do, and it was a perfect moment.

And, for every couple of weeks since then, I listen to the soundtrack a couple of times in a row.  I can get through most of the songs without crying now (still not the last couple, ’cause they’re so good and emotional), but it still fills a part of me that I hadn’t even known was empty.  While I’m not really a big fan of hip-hop, generally speaking, these songs speak to me in a way nothing else had before.

The show reminds me of what’s important: family.  Legacy.  Keeping to my principles.  Not throwing away my shot.  Writing like I’m running out of time.  I don’t know if history quite has its eyes on me (not the way I have my eyes on history in my day job, anyway), but that’s okay.