Almost a year ago, on March 31, 2009, a revival of Hair opened on Broadway to favorable reviews. Much like the original in 1967, the production came from the Public Theater, this time from the the Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park series, where it played in the Summer of 2008. It ran from July thru September, soon moving to previews on Broadway before the official opening. On April 1, 2010, the original Broadway cast will be opening the show in London, so a new cast will be taking the Broadway stage on March 9 to continue the run here. It was just rumored that two of the new cast are American Idol alumni, season 3 runner up Diana DeGarmo, and Season 5 finalist Ace Young, a favorite of mine. To celebrate the casting, I thought we'd revisit the show, and the effect it had on popular music. With lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot, the songs have entered the culture through the voices not of the stage, but of popular music itself.
As they appear on the soundtrack, the first song to enter popular culture is Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In, a mash-up, as it were, made popular by the 5th Dimension in 1969. It claimed the top spot on the Billboard charts for 6 weeks.The first song opens the show, a celebration of the 69s flower child lifestyle, while the second the final song, also sung by the tribe in a different kind of celebration.
Next up is a selection by jazz great Nina Simone singing Ain't Got No/I Got Life. The song made the biggest impact on the UK charts in 1968, taking the #5 spot. Both songs are from an early in the show, sung by the tribe to list what they lack, and then by a defiant Claude suggesting all they have.
The Cowsills were a family of singers, the basis for the television show The Partridge Family. In 1968 the hit #2 on the Billboard charts singing the novelty song Hair. In the show, Claude and Berger are explaining to the tribe what they think is so special about themselves.
In 1969, Three Dog Night followed up their Harry Nilsson-penned hit, One, with the song Easy To Be Hard. It became their biggest hit to date, reaching #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Interestingly enough, the song is sung by Sheila in the show, tlaking about the heartbreak of being in seeming unrequited love with Berger.
In July of 1969, a young American named Oliver reached #3 on the charts with Good Morning Starshine. It was his first hit, clearly utilizing his crisp and clear tone. The song is sung by Sheila, who is enjoying some fun with the tribe near the end of the show.
So Hair, the American Tribal-Love Musical placed five songs in the Top 10 on the charts in the US & the UK. Few shows could boast such a success in popular culture, especially in the modern era.