Practically every form of popular music you can name - from the blues and rock and roll to hiphop and dubstep - was the music of black struggle in working-class communities, before it was stripped of social content for the mass market and commodified by wealthy, white record executives.
Apart from EDM, that was apparently the result of a laboratory accident.
With its work on behalf of Hillary Clinton, help for victims of the Orlando nightclub shootings, and the hit hip-hop musical “Hamilton,” Broadway got quite political in 2016.
It might seem that the Great White Way was more involved in politics than ever before, but that’s not exaclty so.
“I think that the Broadway community has been involved in politics since the AIDS crisis — since our president would not say the word ‘AIDS.’ Meanwhile, everyone was dying, and a lot of members of the Broadway community were dying,” Tony Award-winning Broadway star Laura Benanti recently told Business Insider at a promotional event for the special theatrical release of her most recent musical “She Loves Me.”
The fact that “Hamilton” managed to coincide with an election year and other social movements is “destiny” to Zachary Levi, star of “Chuck” and Benanti’s costar in “She Loves Me.”
“You can’t script that,” Levi told Business Insider in a Facebook Live video before the same promotional event from BroadwayHD.
Broadway has also gained recognition for achieving where film and TV have lagged behind: diversity.
The 2015-2016 Broadway season featured several majority nonwhite casts in “Hamilton,” “On Your Feet! The Musical,” “The Color Purple,” “Shuffle Along,” and the short-lived “Allegiance.”
It also saw the inclusion of a minority not often featured in entertainment: persons with disabilities. Deaf West Theatre’s production of “Spring Awakening” saw both deaf and hearing actors perform and sign in American Sign Language simultaneously. It also featured Ali Stroker, the first actress to use a wheelchair onstage.
While this season brought rapture, the question is if this highly diversified look will stay. Upon first glance, the next season isn’t exactly following in this past year’s groundbreaking footsteps.
Yet Levi is hopeful.
“I don’t think there’s any shortage of incredible ideas and vision from all types of people,” he said. “It’s convincing these people [on Broadway] that that’s the vision that they should make and also figuring out if that’s the vision people want to see.”
If art truly is a window or a mirror, Benanti says, then it must be diversified and include minorities.
“I recognize my privilege as a white person, and I am happy when I see the door being opened to a deeper humanity,” she said. “And I think that is something that Broadway does probably better than anybody else.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, architect of the hit rap-heavy Broadway show Hamilton, got his introduction to some of the greats in political hip-hop very early in life — one of them was apparently his high school tormentor.
Killer Mike, half of Run the Jewels, unveiled a new line of merchandise Thursday that includes text from the Clinton campaign’s emails that discuss the rapper. Killer Mike’s name appears numerous times in the leaked emails, but the new shirt highlights one email in particular.