The Songs That Inspired Hamilton, The First Cool Musical

As collected by the play’s writer and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

August 31, 2015

Hamilton is a wildly successful musical about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton. It’s based on a very long biography and runs three hours. I was surprised, after hearing this description, that the play had received near-universal acclaim, and that it was positioned by both critics and friends not as essential education but life-changing entertainment. And I was happily shocked when I actually went to a theater, and found these promises to be true. Hamilton is a story about immigration, the decisions that built America, and the decisions that build and break friendships, told by a spectacular and diverse cast. It’s rapped all the way through, and well. There are Biggie references, but this play is not corny. If, for you, patriotism has seemed like a near-impossible feeling to feel, it is an utterly unique opportunity to experience pride in a nation.

Hamilton stars and was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. He’s the New Yorker, recently profiled in the New Yorker, who did In the Heights. Today, Miranda shares a playlist of the songs that inspired him as he worked on Hamilton. There’s opera and Mary J. Blige; 2Pac, Eminem, and The Decemberists—a constellation of contemporary references that, run though Miranda’s brain, resulted in songs that make the play feel familiar and lovable, that recognize a generation of music fans the theater hasn’t paid enough attention to, until now.

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"The songs in this Spotify playlist, despite straddling several genres of music, share elements I love: a focus on storytelling, dazzling verbal wordplay, unreliable or hilarious narrators," Miranda told The FADER via email. "What I love about musical theater AND hip-hop is that everything is fair game: sampling other genres, a fluidity in service of the moment. I had a lot of fun selecting these songs, all of which were bouncing around my brain during the creation of Hamilton. Enjoy."

Thumbnail image: Colin Hawkins for The FADER

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The Songs That Inspired Hamilton, The First Cool Musical