5 Really, Really, Really Late Thoughts About “Hamilton”

Like most of planet Earth, I saw Hamilton on Disney+ this weekend. Twice. Is this just an updated, sophisticated Schoolhouse Rock presentation, or something deeper? Some scattershot thoughts:

1) Once upon a time, a great New York non-white artist tried through multiple meanings to find America. As a result, he becomes one of the most popular artists in the world. So this is a 21st-century remix. Hamilton is amazing in its constant past-present tensions, its constant double-meanings. Some/here around the fifth time I watch it, I will put the captions on to catch everything.

2) I reserve Lin-Manuel Miranda’s right to have a favorite white writer–one who took his pen and created his persona and shook an elite world in which he gained entry. I definitely do. But I would not write a glowing tribute to his racism and/or create sympathy for his society’s application of it. (Having Thomas Jefferson, the enslaver and rapist of Sally Hemmings, look and act like Prince’s and Morris Day’s love child was genius!) How much more politically powerful this would have been if that silent ensemble had been enslaved Africans, commenting on them! But then it would have made America uncomfortable, see, so….

3) There’s no way this musical would not be loved by any national media personality, artist, writer, thinker of any type. Who would ever hate (on) a pre-written story about a young underdog who by grit and talent moves to New York City, re-invents him/herself and becomes a star and then a legend? We now know it’s not just a post-World-War-II Great American Novel thang, but a popular fantasy that pre-dates the nation itself! Hamilton might as well used this song in the prologue or during intermission.

4) It’s still hard for me to worry about who lives, who dies who tells your story while the enslaved Africans’ saga still awaits. Frederick Douglass, Daveed? Daveed? Hello? Hello? Are you gonna make me a fan of (Broadway/Hollywood) biting? And you’re playing him already? Hmm……

5) My simple ideological comment has been my favorite since the beginning of the Hamilton phenomenon: If Dick Cheney likes your musical, you’ve written the wrong musical. While I still hold that position while bowing down to Hamilton’s pop-a-ganda greatness, I truly hope that a future Miranda–And I believed it too/And *I* know who *you are*will grow past this American-fan-service phase into rubbing his subdued anger about the state of his American colony in America’s face, a la the Paul who is no longer Revere-d. 🙂 As I sing along, I truly hope for and look forward to America’s future disappointment in you.

“The Encyclopedia Of Newark Jazz,” Barbara J. Kukla’s New Book

I just got this today from the author, a former colleague of mine:

 

The Encyclopedia of Newark Jazz, set for release in late May, is Barbara Kukla’s sixth book about the people of Newark and its rich history. Her previous books include Swing City: Newark Nightlife, 1925-50, and America’s Music: Jazz in Newark.

Kukla’s latest work includes more than 300 capsule biographies of Newark jazz musicians and singers, most with photos. There are more than 400 photographs in all, many of which are historic, and a wealth of flyers, including one for an appearance by John Coltrane at a city club in 1950.

Newark’s own, Sarah Vaughan, one of the world’s most legendary jazz singers, is featured on the cover with James Moody, whose career is celebrated each November at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and the blues and jazz singer Miss Rhapsody (1902-84) to whom the book is dedicated.

“Most jazz books tend to be repetitive, so I try to dig up new stuff about artists like Sarah, Moody, Wayne Shorter and Woody Shaw,” Kukla says. “This time I interviewed Sarah’s sister and Moody’s widow; former Newark Mayor Ken Gibson, who played in a band with Wayne Shorter in his youth, and Clem Moorman, who still performs professionally at age 101. He’s the father of singer Melba Moore .

Kukla worked at The Star-Ledger for 38 years, most of that time as editor of the popular “Newark This Week” section. For information about the book or to schedule a talk, contact the author at bjkukla@aol.com or (973) 325-370. The book is $29.99 per copy.

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The First Time I Heard Of Doctor Strange……

…..was in this “rockcomic” album from Buddah Records, which I had at the age of four or so in 1972. It’s called “Spider-Man: From Beyond The Grave.”

It was a full-length album. The album cover folded out into a centerfold comic pictures that matched the album. So you could “read” the story while listening.