Hair at 50 and The Women’s Marches
This year, the musical Hair turns 50. Radical for its day with its unyielding assessment of 1960s America: civil rights, the Vietnam War, government corruption, its inclusion of LGB characters (the Q & T are inferred, I suppose), its embrace of rock & roll for the musical stage, it is interesting that its anniversary coincides so closely with the inauguration of “President” Donald Trump, and far more importantly, the historic Women’s marches that breathe a new hope into our hearts and resolve for change. Are we really, fifty-years-later, having to refight the battles of the 60s that are so represented as a powerful collage in the musical Hair?
A product of writers James Rado and Gerome Ragni, with music by Galt MacDermot, Hair simply broke every barrier it could. It was the Hamilton of its day. Theatre was forever changed by the enormous success of its original cast album, but even more so by many of its songs that directly addressed the topical issues and struggles of the day. “Colored Spade”, a list song of racial epithets and stereotypes, sung by a black man. “Sodomy”, a coyly subversive hymn angelically performed by a bisexual wanting to know why sexual deviance is wrong. “Air”, a caustic diatribe against pollution. “Walking in Space”, an embrace of recreational drug use and its subsequent musical montage, a lesson on the atrocities of war and bigotry. The final song “The Flesh Failures” is an achingly palpable plea to “Let the Sunshine In”, an all too familiar feeling in recent months.
What is most noticeable at the center of Hair is a strong, confident, independent woman named Sheila who is leading protests for, among other things, women’s equality. Yesterday, I could not help but think about Sheila and imagined her being a voice at the marches around the world. I was also saddened that most of what she stood for back in 1967 is still being fought for now.
Though the marches are over, certain songs from musicals continue to ring out in my mind:
“Defying Gravity” Wicked
“Don’t Rain on My Parade” Funny Girl
“My Body” The Life
“Back to Before” Ragtime
“Let It Go” Frozen
But, I guess, more than anything, I hear the strains of “Let the Sunshine In” from Hair loud and clear. We need some sunshine and the collective sunshine brought about by the multitudes that marched yesterday makes Hair just as relevant fifty-years after it first took the world by storm.