Hamil-Fact Or Hamil-Fiction? Meditation expert Sharon Salzberg guesses if Hamilton lyrics are historically accurate. For example: Alexander Hamilton probably didn't know how to rap.
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Hamil-Fact Or Hamil-Fiction?

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Hamil-Fact Or Hamil-Fiction?

Hamil-Fact Or Hamil-Fiction?

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So, Sharon, I happen to know that you are a huge fan of the musical "Hamilton."


EISENBERG: So how many times have you seen it live?

SALZBERG: I've seen it nine times.

JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: Wow. Wow (laughter).

EISENBERG: OK. That's...

SALZBERG: (Laughter).


SALZBERG: At first in New York.


SALZBERG: I mean, basically, what happened the first time was that I was writing my previous book. And I was really late with it. I was really stuck.

EISENBERG: (Laughter).

SALZBERG: I was very, very discouraged. And my thought, I'm embarrassed to admit, was, it's my 10th book. Nobody cares what I have to say anymore. Just phone it in, you know?


SALZBERG: Just, like, turn something in. And just then a friend took me to see "Hamilton." And Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote it, of course, was still in it. He was playing Hamilton. And so I was sitting there in the theater staring at him, thinking, you wrote this? Like, this came out of your brain, you know, like...

COULTON: (Laughter).

SALZBERG: And I thought, you can never compromise. You can never, like, do anything half-hearted. You have to put absolutely everything you've got into whatever you're creating. The friend who brought me teases me. He said - and then I said, do you want to go out to dinner? And you said, I have to go home and write (laughter).

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: Even you talking about it, I'm, like, remembering it.

SALZBERG: Me, too.

EISENBERG: It's crazy.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: OK. So we get it. You've seen it. You know the material. But by Lin-Manuel Miranda's own admission, he took quite a few artistic liberties. So in this game, we're going to play you a clip from the original "Hamilton" cast soundtrack. And all you have to do is tell us if what you heard is historically accurate...

SALZBERG: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: ...Or if the information is not accurate. So we're saying Hamil-true (ph) or Hamil-false (ph).

SALZBERG: I'll try.


EISENBERG: Yeah. OK. Here's your first clip. This is Angelica Schuyler in the song "Satisfied."


UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (Singing, as characters) Number one.

RENEE ELISE GOLDBERRY: (As Angelica Schuyler, singing) I'm a girl in a world in which my only job is to marry rich. My father has no sons so I'm the one, who has to social climb for one...

EISENBERG: So that is - her only job is to marry rich. My father has no sons. So I'm the one who has to social climb for one. Is that true or false?

SALZBERG: That's false because, well, she was already married when they met. I knew that.

COULTON: (Laughter).

EISENBERG: That is absolutely correct. And also, Philip had 15 children.

SALZBERG: Sons amongst them.

EISENBERG: Yeah. But I guess the song's less catchy when it's Angelica, Eliza, Peggy and John and Cornelia (laughter) and Philip in the cast.


COULTON: Yeah. They can't have all 15 of them. Yeah, that would be a lot. All right. Here's your next one. This is King George in "I Know Him."


JONATHAN GROFF: (As King George III) John Adams, (singing) I know him. That can't be. That's that little guy who spoke to me all those years ago. What was it, '85? That poor man - they're going to eat him alive...

SALZBERG: (Laughter) I have no idea if they ever actually met. I'll say false.

COULTON: They did actually meet in...

SALZBERG: They did. OK. That was wrong.

COULTON: ...In 1785. The year was correct. And also, at 5'7", he was one of the shortest U.S. presidents.

SALZBERG: (Laughter) Right.

EISENBERG: All right. This is from when Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr meet in the song "Aaron Burr, Sir."


LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA: (Rapping, as Alexander Hamilton) Sir, I heard your name at Princeton. I was seeking an accelerated course of study when I got sort of out of sorts with a buddy of yours. I may have punched him. It's a blur, sir. He handles the financials.

LESLIE ODOM JR: (As Aaron Burr) You punched the bursar.

COULTON: (Laughter).

SALZBERG: I believe that he never punched the bursar, in fact.

EISENBERG: Correct. Hamilton had some disagreements with the president of Princeton, but he never punched him or the bursar. And Lin-Manuel Miranda's excuse is that he liked the bursar pun. Are you a wordplay person yourself?

SALZBERG: Well, I'm in awe of it. And every once in a while I think, oh, that would be an amazing thing to do, you know, to - Lin-Manuel Miranda's group Freestyle Love Supreme...


SALZBERG: ...You know, has an academy where you actually can learn, you know, improv and rhyme.


SALZBERG: And I think - I don't think I can. But I would love to.


COULTON: It does - it looks like a magic trick.

EISENBERG: It's just practice.

SALZBERG: That's true.

COULTON: (Laughter).

SALZBERG: Eight to 12 minutes a day. I can, like...

EISENBERG: That's it. Yeah. You could change...

COULTON: That's right.

SALZBERG: Broadway, here I come.

COULTON: (Laughter). All right. Here's your next clip.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters) One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. It's the Ten Duel Commandments. It's the Ten Duel Commandments.

COULTON: All right. Is that true or false? (Laughter).

SALZBERG: I think there were more. There were more rules or regs for dueling, not just 10.

COULTON: That is correct. There actually was a list of dueling rules called the code duello.

EISENBERG: And I believe one of them is no singing (laughter).

SALZBERG: No rhyming.


EISENBERG: No rhyming.

COULTON: (Laughter) Yes, certainly.

EISENBERG: You did amazing. That was fantastic. You won.

SALZBERG: Thank you.

EISENBERG: Sharon Salzberg's latest book is called "Real Change: Mindfulness To Heal Ourselves And The World." Thank you so much for joining us and helping us.

SALZBERG: Thank you so much for having me.


EISENBERG: After the break, comedians Dewayne Perkins and Aasia LaShay Bullock will join us to critique the wardrobe choices of corporate mascots. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.

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