Musicals have never been my thing. I know that’s surprising for those of you who look at me and think, “Well, if that ain’t a walkin’ talkin’ ball of culture right there, I don’t know what is.”
Perhaps it’s the flashbacks I have to my days at Possum Holler High when our drama class staged “My Fair Lady” — but not the one based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.” No, our creative drama teacher Lynn-Ellen Miranda wrote her own version based upon that time the Dog-Faced Boy ran off with Snake Girl — well, slithered off — at the 1977 Possum Holler Fair. It was loosely based on a semi-true prevarication and featured Broadway-style adaptations of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchett tunes. To this very day, I cry when I hear “Flirtin’ With Disaster.”
So, when my wife saw that the gargantuan Broadway smash “Hamilton” was now available for streaming, I wasn’t all that excited when she insisted we watch it just so we could keep up with the entire rest of the American population who seem to have seen it and love it. I went to the back porch and contemplated it. “Hmm, looks like we’ve still got a fifth of tequila. Well, OK. I’ll give it a shot.”
In case you haven’t heard, “Hamilton” is based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, whose selfie is worth $10. He was a key player in the American Revolution and the early days of our government. Unfortunately, he suffered from a rare form of Tourette syndrome in which he incessantly spoke in rhymes. The poor man could not say two sentences without rhyming. Imagine Nipsy Russell on amphetamines. The Founding Fathers got so sick of all the rhyming that — spoiler alert — they finally asked Aaron Burr to shoot him in one of the most memorable scenes from the show:
“Oh my God, I’ve been shot. Whoa nelly, that hurts a lot! I must ask you, Mr. Burr: What the heck did you do that fer?”
“Hamilton” was created by Lin-Manuel Miranda, and I admit I’m impressed with the man’s audacity to tackle such an unique subject for a stage show. I like the concept. But it’s all hippity-hoppity, and that’s just not my kind of music. I know someone out there is thinking, “Shocker! The white guy doesn’t like hip-hop!” For the record, I also don’t like most modern country music, classical, opera or metal music. I argue it’s not because I’m white but because I’m just old, uncool, and my new favorite radio station is OFF.
And I’m not 100 percent against rhyming, although I prefer rhymes about blowing out flip-flops and stepping on pop tops. I’ve even read a lot of poetry, though my 10th grade English teacher was not impressed when asked for my favorite poem and I replied, “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker,” by Ogden Nash. (She was not impressed a lot, by the way.)
Maybe the problem is that I went through my hippity-hoppity phase too long ago, back in the 1980s. I had cassettes (kids, ask your parents) by Kool Moe Dee, Ice-T and Run-DMC (whom I’ve seen in concert), and none of them even once mentioned Alexander Hamilton. The Beastie Boys (whom I’ve also seen in concert) did rap called “Paul Revere,” but I think their history lesson was a little off.
The late great Charlie Daniels rapped a little about history. His “country rap” song “Uneasy Rider” referenced the early 1970s political climate and mentioned such notables as George McGovern and George Wallace. And his “Devil Went Down to Georgia” told the story of when the Devil lost a golden fiddle to a Georgia hillbilly. I’m not sure about the historical accuracy of that rap, either, because it sure sounded to me like the Devil crushed Johnny. I can’t believe he gave up so easily without so much as an appeal. I can only assume the Devil was disqualified for having a band of demons join in. Must’ve been some sort of solo rule.
When it comes to “Hamilton,” I guess I’ll just have to be one of those uncultured few who hates it. Of course, if we are inaugurating President Kanye West in January, I might better learn to love rhyming inauguration addresses and State of the Union speeches. Or, better yet, I might just ask Aaron Burr to shoot me.
VIDEO: If you haven’t seen “Hamilton,” this parody won’t really resonate, but everything these folks do is great: