How does a mastered, ornery work of lore and rap songs become a phenomenon? “Hamilton” is the answer. Mix one part history, one part unescapable music, and a hearty dash of unabashed patriotism with talent and passion, and you have a hit musical that appeals to Americans, whether blue or red. It picked up a record 16 Tony nominations Tuesday.
Sure, New York’s elite love this musical, but so does conservative superhero Sen. Ben Sasse, seen here geeking out over a ten-dollar bill signed by “Hamilton” star Lin-Manuel Miranda.
If Sasse can love the musical, so can you. There’s a lot for freedom-lovers to celebrate about this vibrant and insightful telling of our country’s founding. Here are some lyrics to prove it.
1. ‘Not Throwing Away My Shot’
I am not throwing away my shot.
Hey yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy and hungry,
and I am not throwing away my shot.
From “My Shot,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Listen here.
This refrain follows Alexander Hamilton throughout his life, popping up in song after song. The idea is that you have one chance at life, so you do not waste it on things that have no value. America, the young, scrappy, and hungry, rewards people like her. On the other hand, you throw your shot 100 percent at things that do matter, like revolution!
2. ‘Rise Up’
When you’re living on your knees, you rise up.
Tell your brother that he’s gotta rise up
Tell your sister that she’s gotta rise up
Also from “My Shot,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Listen here.
These lyrics have inspired a hashtag, #RiseUp. It’s not a new idea. In fact, it’s one conservatives have been saying for years, perhaps forever. When the people rise up in defense of freedom, amazing things happen.
3. ‘Greatest City in the World’
Look around, look around, how lucky we are to be alive right now. History is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world.
From “The Schuyler Sisters,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Listen here.
The play is a big booster for New York City, but New York City in the play represents all America. This refrain reminds us that we are lucky, even honored, to be part of history and part of the American story. History is happening. How lucky we are to be alive to be part of it.
4. ‘The World Turned Upside Down’
Tens of thousands of people flood the streets,
There are screams and church bells ringing
And as our fallen foes retreat,
We hear the drinking song they’re singing.
The world turned upside down.
From “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down),” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Listen here.
Just listen to this song about the battle in which America finally won her freedom. It will send chills up and down your spine. It shines a light on just how radical America was—and is—how much the ideals of our Founding Fathers, put into action, changed everything. And still do.
(Disclaimer: this song has explicit language (one instance of the f-word), which I happen to love, but be forewarned.)
5. ‘Got a Lot Farther by Working a Lot Harder’
The ten-dollar Founding Father without a father,
Got a lot farther by working a lot harder,
By being a lot smarter,
By being a self-starter.
From “Alexander Hamilton,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Listen here.
If there’s one thing that comes through in this musical, it’s that hard work is foundational to this country. Hamilton, the orphan, bastard, son of a whore (really, he was all three), overcame his sad beginnings by working hard in the land of opportunity. Conservatives believe that land still exists and still rewards those who take advantage of it by working.
6. ‘Be a New Man’
In New York, you can be a new man.
Also from “Alexander Hamilton,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Listen here.
Again, New York stands in for America as a whole. This lyric is about the miracle of a place where no one cares who your daddy was or even if you had a daddy. No one worries about where you came from or where you place in society is. You can be a new man. You can build yourself up. You can rise up. That’s the dream of America and one conservatives embrace.
7. ‘Raise a Glass to Freedom’
Raise a glass to Freedom,
Something they can never take away.
From “The Story of Tonight,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Listen here.
This song is sung by a group of idealistic revolutionaries, men who will give their life so their country can have freedom. Those men still exist today, and it’s nice to hear them honored without irony.
8. ‘I Wanna Sit Under My Own Vine and Fig Tree’
If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on
It outlives me when I’m gone
Like the scripture says:
“Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree
And no one shall make them afraid.”
They’ll be safe in the nation we’ve made
I wanna sit under my own vine and fig tree
A moment alone in the shade
At home in this nation we’ve made
One last time.
From “One Last Time,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Listen here.
George Washington sings to tell an incredulous Alexander Hamilton that he intends to step down from the presidency. I never make it through this song with a dry eye, and this quotation from the Bible always chokes me up, especially the part about “no one shall make them afraid.” The picture of peace, prosperity, calm equality, and joyful satisfaction is so beautiful that it, at least, is something on which conservatives and progressives can agree.
9. ‘America, You Great Unfinished Symphony’
Legacy. What is a legacy?
It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me
America, you great unfinished symphony,
you sent for me
You let me make a difference
A place where even orphan immigrants
Can leave their fingerprints and rise up
I’m running out of time. I’m running, and my time’s up.
From “The World Was Wide Enough” by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Listen here.
America, you great unfinished symphony. What more can anyone add?