Above photo clockwise: Devon Thompson, Brianna Rubens, Presley Keith, Amberlin McCormick, Emily Helton and Tyler Glover; by Elizabeth Aaron
She asks me why
I’m just a hairy guy
I’m hairy noon and night
Hell that’s a fright
I’m hairy high and low
Don’t ask me why
It’s not for lack of bread
Like the Grateful Dead
Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Streaming, flaxen, waxen
If you just smiled and heard that song in your head, you might be of a certain age and probably mindset. Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical made its debut in 1967 off Broadway, obtaining a Broadway production in 1968. It would run for 1,750 performances and for close to 2,000 in London. It spawned a movie in 1979 and numerous soundtrack recordings, the original of which (pictured in this article with my record collection) sold over 3,000,000 copies. It is currently in production by the Clarence Brown Theatre.
The musical is a loosely told story of a group of hippies in New York City trying to navigate the new world of sexual freedom, drugs, parents who reject them, a war that wants them, even though they don’t believe in it, and a country they are trying to understand. It was quite shocking when it debuted due to its advocacy of drug use, free sex, fully integrated cast, and its famous (very brief) nude scene.
With lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado and music by Galt MacDermot, the songs struck quite a chord and became anthems of the time. The eponymous song, with lyrics above, became a hit for the family musical group The Cowsills (#13 in 1969). “Aquarious/Let the Sun Shine In” became a hit for the Fifth Dimension (#1 in 1969), while “Easy to Be Hard” was recorded that year by Three Dog Night (#4 in 1969). The version by Three Dog Night is one of my favorite songs by the band (and historical footnote: They were the first rock band I ever saw in concert. The year was 1972.). The artist Oliver had a hit with the song “Good Morning Starshine” (#3 in 1969).
Ragni and Rado started developing the idea in 1964 and came to believe if they brought the vibrant life they were seeing in the West Village to the stage, it could make an exciting show. They grew their hair and lived among the group they were interested in. The main characters in the production are based off the writers. The idea was too foreign to many producers and they were rejected multiple times. It went on to become the first rock musical, producing a genre that has continued since.
Here’s Director Casey Sams on why she felt this was an important production to present at this time:
The show started its run last night and plays through May 7. The official opening night (mix and mingle with the stars) is tomorrow night. I’ll be there and I’m pretty sure I’m wearing my long hair to the show. You should do the same. For a colorful, fun, sometimes quite serious, wonderful musical experience, you will find tickets here.