My ten-year-old daughter loves the Broadway show “Hamilton.” My daughter’s friends love “Hamilton.” A number of them have memorized the lyrics, and the ones that haven’t been able to see the show have bought the cast album. I find myself playing the album repeatedly, and each time I do, I catch fresh nuances in the lyrics and the music. So when a chance to chat with Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of the show, came up, I had to take it. I interviewed him right after the word had come down that “Hamilton” had made Broadway history by grabbing 16 Tony nominations, the most-ever for a show. Listen to the podcast.
The mayor of New Rochelle declared by proclamation, that today, Nov. 9, 2015, is officially Christopher John Farley Day! I hope people mark the day by buying my kids fantasy novel “Game World” in bulk! I also thought I’d post some of my favorite “day” videos to celebrate (The Ice Cube video is NSFW, but the groove is good). Are there any great ones I left out?
It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and “American Sniper” is topping “Selma” to be the No.1 movie in America. Yes, there’s irony there, but it’s also a good time to talk a bit about pop culture and the philosophy of nonviolence.
Gawker has a great article reprinting a long 1965 interview King once gave to Playboy and Alex Haley (who would go on to write “Roots” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”). King’s comments on music leaped out at me. I’m gearing up to read from my novel “Game World” at various schools for African American history month, so King’s words about the power of culture have fresh resonance.
“In a sense, songs are the soul of a movement,” King says in the article. He adds “Since slavery, the Negro has sung throughout his struggle in America. Steal Away and Go Down, Moses were the songs of faith and inspiration which were sung on the plantations. For the same reasons the slaves sang, Negroes today sing freedom songs, for we, too, are in bondage. We sing out our determination that ‘We shall overcome, black and white together, we shall overcome someday.'”
“Selma,” which tells the story of King and the 1965 march he led from Selma to Montgomery, was mostly shut out at this year’s Oscar nominations. All twenty of this year’s Oscar acting nominees are white, and there are no women nominated for writing or directing (“Selma” director Ava DuVernay, who had been widely expected to become the first African-American woman to be in the running for best director, was shut out). “Selma” notched just two Oscar nominations, one for best picture–and another for best song.
This weekend, “American Sniper” pulled in an estimated $89.5 million, while “Selma” took in $8.8 million according to the tracking website Box Office Mojo. Perhaps the best way for people to celebrate the rest of MLK day would be to actually go see “Selma.”
Here I am talking about the “Selma” snub on MSNBC:
The producers of Sting‘s Broadway musical “The Last Ship” announced this morning that the show will be closing on Saturday, January 24.
When the production finishes its four-month run, it will have played 29 preview performances on Broadway and 105 regular performances.
The show had gotten mixed reviews, but many of them were positive. USA Today named it the best musical of 2014. Still, sales had been weak until Sting, the former frontman for the rock band the Police who wrote the music and lyrics for the show, decided to put himself into one of the starring roles. Ticket sales picked up sharply, but it wasn’t enough to save the show.
Along with Wall Street Journal theater reporter Stefanie Cohen, I recently interviewed Sting and co-star Rachel Tucker for the WSJ Cafe, the live arts and culture showcase that I run. Sting told us then that he couldn’t stay in the show past the end of January because he was set to start a tour with Paul Simon. He wouldn’t back out of that commitment because he honored his contracts. Ironically, Simon, who had helped write the Broadway flop “The Capeman,” had once given him some advice about the Great White Way–if the show went south, Simon said, get as far away from it as possible.
Sting didn’t take that advice. He tried to save “The Last Ship” by putting himself in it. Now the show is closing anyway.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the show cost roughly $14 million to mount and took in $8,634,097 over the course of its run.
I saw “The Last Ship” twice. Once without Sting, and another time with him in it. It was a better, more layered show with Sting. I could see and hear his emotional connection to the material, which is about his hometown of Wallsend, a shipbuilding town in England, struggling to come to terms with economic change. He told me he felt the spirits of his parents onstage with him every night.
Sting, in real life, escaped that town and became a rock star. His show pulled him back in, and now, with the end of “The Last Ship,” he must be feeling some of the pain his hometown felt when the shipyards closed.
He was willing to go down with the ship.
My novel “Game World” has a new car smell.
[Originally published in TIME magazine Monday, Sept. 17, 2001]
By Christopher John Farley
Bob Dylan is flipping through his own back pages. He has finally started writing an autobiography. It began as liner notes for rereleases of his back-catalog albums; he has finished about 200 pages, or perhaps 150–he’s not exactly certain. “My retrievable memory, it goes blank on incidents and things that have happened,” says Dylan. He has trouble, sometimes, remembering events from decades past, when he was conjuring up albums like Highway 61 Revisited and unleashing songs like Maggie’s Farm. So he is collecting anecdotes about himself that other people have told and weaving them into his narrative. Here’s the touch that’s pure Dylan: even if he knows a tale isn’t factual, if it sounds good, he’ll use it anyway. “I’ll take some of the stuff that people think is true,” he says, “and I’ll build a story around that.”