Lin-Manuel Miranda has been known to recount the advice Stephen Sondheim gave him while working on Hamilton. “I sent him early drafts of songs over the seven-year development of Hamilton, and his email response was always the same. ‘Variety, variety, variety, Lin. Don’t let up for a second. Surprise us,’” he wrote in T. However, “keep ‘em guessing” always felt like an understatement for Hamilton’s comprehensive and encyclopedic take on the Western songbook. No, there’s a better explanation for how the show goes from the Beatles to Big Pun to Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg and back. “People ask me, Hamilton has a fairly diverse base in terms of the kind of music I’m writing for it,” Miranda to the Washington Post. “And I say, when you grow up with ‘Weird Al’, you learn that genre is fluid.” Miranda grew up a shouting-out-requests-at-a-concert “Weird Al” superfan, and clearly acquired through some sort of osmosis the parodist’s ability to consume culture, process it through his internal machinery, and spit it out as something wholly his own.
Miranda got so good at it that it afforded him an opportunity to meet, befriend, and eventually collaborate with his idol. They first met when Yankovic switched agencies and was potentially looking to work on a musical:
A friendship developed, and after Hamilton came to Broadway and became a sensation, Yankovic participated in a Ham4Ham:
Then in a bit of full circle, Yankovic had Miranda join him on stage to sing the song he shouted a request for decades earlier:
Things get cuter. Not only were they told on the same day that they were going to get stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but they were together when they found out!
This is more of an aside, but it was Larry David who told them:
A few days later, Yankovic covered a song from Hamilton for Miranda’s #Ham4All challenge:
To which Miranda responded:
Well, we hope 10-year-old Lin-Manuel Miranda (Lil’ Manuel Miranda) is sitting down, because, after teasing it on Twitter, at midnight on “February 30,” Yankovic’s “The Hamilton Polka” came out.
Covering the entire musical in five minutes, the result is a magical ouroboros of influence, where culture swirls around and around, unmistakable but also so much each of these two artists. Hamilton is a musical at least partly about whose stories we tell, who gets to tell them, and how we decide to tell them. All of that is conveyed not only in the show’s book, but in Miranda’s approach to genre. Consequently, this overwhelmingly joyous single is a tribute to both the show it’s covering and to the person who is doing the covering, as without him it wouldn’t have been the same.
If you’re not convinced of how big of a deal this is to Miranda, watch the clip below. It’s been quite a few years for this guy. There’s a million things he has done.
Update: Miranda’s reaction! On the Tonight Show, they cut together the videos of Jimmy Fallon and Miranda listening to the track for the first time.