Without getting bogged down in a discussion of recent events, I thought it would be relevant to don my Theater Nerd hat to make a list of show tunes to help inspire people to take action. Originally, this was just going to be a short list. Then, I began going through my large music collection and this list became a two-parter. Below, you’ll find the song titles, their musical, some lyrics, and videos because I’m all fancy. There may be plot spoilers. Just a heads up.
“Do You Hear the People Sing?” – Les Misérables
While I was up late the other night watching things go down in Texas (you can check my Tumblr for my thoughts on that score), I saw a lot of people quoting this song. I would be remiss if I didn’t include it. It’s a song guaranteed to inspire and get stuck in your head, an anthem for the would-be French revolution.
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!
“The World Will Know” – Newsies
This song will always remain one of my most favorite songs to get me pumped and inspired. It’s a great underdog anthem about showing the world what you’re made of and not backing away from a fight for what’s right. It was a toss-up between it and another of the songs from this musical, “Seize the Day.” This won because it just makes me feel like going out and ripping some newspapers.
And the world will know
And the world will learn
And the world will wonder how we made the tables turn
And the world will see
That we had to choose
That the things we do today will be tomorrow’s news
And the old will fall
And the young stand tall
And the time is now
And the winds will blow
And our ranks will grow and grow and grow and so
The world will feel the fire
And finally know!
“Make Them Hear You” – Ragtime
All Coalhouse Walker, Jr. wanted in Ragtime, the musical, was for justice to be served and to be heard by an establishment that ignored him based on the color of his skin. Even when it appeared he’d lost, he knew that he’d win if his followers and friends would go on and tell his story. This was the song that inspired this list. It got stuck in my brain and wouldn’t let go.
Go out and tell our story.
Let it echo far and wide.
Make them hear you,
Make them hear you.
How justice was our battle
And how justice was denied.
Make them hear you,
Make them hear you.
“Is Anybody There?” – 1776
Every Fourth of July, I watch this musical dramatization of the actions of the Second Continental Congress leading up to the American Revolution. It’s got some great songs and a fantastic take on History. A lot of the lyrics are even taken from actual correspondence from that period. When you’re a History nerd like me, you eat this stuff up with multiple utensils. This song outlines a vision John Adams has of the American future.
The croakers all say we’ll rue the day
There’ll be hell to pay in fiery purgatory
Through all the gloom, through all the gloom
I see the rays of ravishing light and glory!
Is anybody there? Does anybody care?
Does anybody see what I see?
I see fireworks! I see the pagaent and
Pomp and parade
I hear the bells ringing out
I hear the cannons roar
I see Americans – all Americans
Free forever more
“Morning Glow” – Pippin
There are frequently times when we think that we can do better than those in power. There are often times when we’re right. In the musical that shares his name, Pippin literally gets to try and do that. His optimism is infectious.
Morning glow is almost here
Morning glow by your light
We can make the new day bright
And the phantoms of the night
Will fade into the past
Morning glow is here
“You Can’t Stop the Beat” – Hairspray
It’s 1962 and Tracy Turnblad has a dream to dance on her favorite show. Her dream becomes more than that as she takes a stand against racism in this cult film turned Broadway musical turned movie musical. It’s really hard not to groove to the beat of this song. It’s uplifting and oh so true. Once things get rolling, there is no way to stop what’s been started.
You can’t stop today
As it comes speeding ’round the track
Yesterday is hist’ry
And it’s never comin’ back!
Tomorrow is a brand new day, and it don’t know white from black
‘Cause the world keeps spinnin’ round and round
And my heart’s keepin time to the speed of sound
I was lost ’til I heard the drums, then I found my way
‘Cause you can’t stop the beat!
“Defying Gravity” – Wicked
This song will always give me goosebumps. Elphaba, the Wicked Witch, refuses to accept the lies she’s been told as truths. She refuses to live up to the expectations of the society that’s bound her. This song where she takes her broom and tells the rest of the world to shove it is fantastic and inspiring. I remember seeing a live performance of this and being blown away. Never accept your limitations, just push and strive for more.
I’m through accepting limits
’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!
Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love I guess I’ve lost
Well, if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost!
I’d sooner buy
Kiss me goodbye
I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down
Stay tuned for Part 2.