After the devastating 2017 Hurricane Maria, Lin-Manuel Miranda wanted to create a song that could bring comfort and raise funds for those who were suffering in Puerto Rico. He thought of “Maria,” a song and character in West Side Story, about whom it is said that to speak her name is “almost like praying” (Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein). Miranda says, “I sort of fixated on the phrase ‘Almost like praying,’ because we always send thoughts and prayers in the wake of a tragedy, but they’re not enough. Puerto Rico doesn’t just need thoughts and prayers, it needs supplies, and food, and water, and troops. … The song is about how [‘Maria’] is musical … and this is flipping that back on its head again and evoking the notion of music playing and praying, which are two things that we will forever associate with the people of Puerto Rico” (Lin-Manuel Miranda, annotation to “Almost Like Praying,” Genius, 2017, https://genius.com/12811217). The music video for “Almost Like Praying” can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1IBXE2G6zw. Our thoughts and prayers should lead to action; serving others who are in need can be “almost like praying”—or perhaps actually praying!
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