It’s cruel coincidence that the hurricane which devastated Puerto Rico is named Maria. After all, the song of that same name is a musical standard from the classic Broadway musical (and later, film) "West Side Story" which, besides being a tragic Romeo and Juliet romance, expressed the conflicting emotions of a group of young Puerto Ricans relocated in New York City. (Remember the opening of the song “America” - "Puerto Rico/My heart's devotion/Let it sink back in the ocean!/Always the hurricanes blowing…”)
It came as no surprise to anyone familiar with Lin-Manuel Miranda, the mastermind behind the stage phenomenon "Hamilton," that the dynamic composer/lyricist/performer would step forward to help out the island in this time of need. Puerto Rico is his homeland and, since the storm left it in tatters last month, Miranda has been tweeting non-stop and making public appearances to encourage donations to the Hispanic Federation, a non-profit group working on relief and recovery efforts.
Miranda knows how to put his money – and his talent – where his mouth is.
Calling on his extensive network of friends, including some of the Latino community’s biggest stars, he went into the studio to create a new song to raise money for disaster relief. Entitled “Almost Like Praying,” it was released today, available to stream on Spotify and to purchase on iTunes for $1.29. All proceeds will go to the Hispanic Federation's Hurricane Relief Fund - you can also donate directly on that website. And Atlantic Records released a music video that shows many of the stars in the studio.
The song’s title echoes the sentiment of the love-struck character in the original "West Side Story" who notes that saying Maria’s name softly “is almost like playing,” and the Spanish-language lyrics provide a list of the towns and cities in Puerto Rico.
Along with Miranda’s recurring vocal line, the all-star roster includes Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan, Fat Joe, Rubén Blades, and Gina Rodriguez, and Rita Moreno, EGOT-award-winning actress who starred in the original production of "West Side Story."