“When the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planet and love will rule the stars!”
Some of you may remember that as the first line of the song “Aquarius,” the signature song of the Broadway musical “Hair” – one of the Great White Way’s most popular productions in the late 1960s.
“Hair” was a celebration of, well…hair, as it dominated those times so long ago. It was also a celebration of peace and love and freedom and a statement against the Vietnam War, which was raging at the time.
I came of age in the late 1960s and remember hearing about “Hair” – the faraway Broadway production – and eventually saw “Hair,” the movie, released in 1979.
In 1968, when “Hair” the musical splashed across the stage, it was ultra-controversial, with its anti-war, pro-peace-and-freedom message in a nation divided perhaps even more than now.
By 1979, the themes of “Hair” seemed somewhat irrelevant in a country at peace with itself and most of the world. Oh, the Cold War was still grinding away, but the threat of imminent nuclear annihilation appeared less worrisome each day.
The hippie hairstyles and clothes and slang seemed pretty dated by 1979, although guys still wore their hair kind of longish and sported the sideburns and beards rarely seen today.
But in 2011, “Hair” seems like a total anachronism.
So why did its revival on Broadway in 2009 earn it nine Tony Awards as the best musical revival of the year?
After its Broadway run, the production went on the road and has been touring around the country for about two years, wrapping up its run just recently.
The reviews were generally enthusiastic and speak of its ongoing relevance in the post-911 world we live in today.
And at first glance, there appears to be little that ties today’s world to the world that existed in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
But wait a minute. Let’s take a closer look. There’s still war and social injustice and class divides buried under our 21st-century veneer of technological “progress.”
Those “Hair” themes of alienation, paranoia and a yearning to be free to live by one’s own rules are still around, even if the hair often is not.
And the utter joy of being alive and “doing your own thing” still lives in the young and the young-at-heart.
So is “Hair” just a trip down nostalgia lane for aging boomers? That’s no doubt part of it.
But I think it’s deeper than that.
Beyond the tie-dye and fringe and long hair is a timeless message about speaking your mind and not being held down by the conventions of society.
And of hope for a better world by doing so.
Were Hair’s hippies right or wrong? In the 40 years since its original run, I think we can say yes and no.
Too much self-indulgence obviously isn’t good. And there ARE rules we all must follow to get along.
But questioning authority IS a good thing, and so is being true to oneself.
These are some of the lessons that perhaps a few of us have learned since 1968.
So I guess there’s just one thing left to say:
“Let the sun shine, let the sunshine in, the sun shine in…”