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'These Are Just Not Ordinary Times:' Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Making of His New Song for Puerto Rico

'These Are Just Not Ordinary Times:' Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Making of His New Song for Puerto Rico
From TIME - October 5, 2017

Lin-Manuel Miranda is not sleeping much these days. Quite literally: he's spent the past week flying around the country, getting a crew of famous artistsJennifer Lopez, Luis Fonsi, Camila Cabello, Gloria Estefan and many moreto record a new single, "Almost Like Praying," out now to support the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. Made with a riff on Sondheim's West Side Story tune, it's meant to be a unifying anthem for an island ravaged by Hurricane Maria, with all proceeds going to the Hispanic Federation's UNIDOS Disaster Relief Fund.

"The name 'Maria' will forever have a different connotation on the island," Miranda explained to TIME. "Most of us know 'Maria' as the name of a really great song in West Side Story, a really great love song." But for Miranda, he saw an opportunity to combine the twothe classic Broadway tale and the current crisisinto a way to help the island of his family's roots. "My brain started flipping the lyric. 'Say it loud and theres music playing, say it soft and its almost like praying,' That was half the idea."

The other half was including the names of all the island's towns, as a way to combat the "terrible silence" that greeted the hurricane's end. "I do not think I heard from my family until four or five days after," he explains. Social media was filled with Puerto Ricans seeking loved ones by looking for updates on specific places. "I thought, if I can manage to put every one of the 78 towns in Puerto Rico in the lyric, thats the song. Thats what unites us all. Because our traditions emanate from those towns, and theyre the source of pride and of power."

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