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Teaching Notes - Hair

May 14, 2020

Welcome to Teaching Notes - a blog series written by a teacher to help other teachers #TeachtheSongbook. 

 By GASF Volunteer: Sue Ackley 

This Month's Teaching Notes:


Combine rock music, hippies, a nude scene, anti-war references, a multi-racial cast and you’ll have a musical explosion on stage.


"Kids, be free!

Be whatever you are,

do whatever you want to do,

just so long as you don't hurt anybody."



Images inspired by Songbook Foundation's current exhibit installation titled, Of Thee I Sing: Politics on Stage. Learn more about our current exhibit here. 


What's it all about?


Hair is the ground-breaking rock musical that follows members of the “tribe” as they struggle with love and the sexual revolution, protest the Vietnam War, and rebel against the beliefs of conservative parents and society. Read more about it here.


What's going on in U.S. politics?


Hair – 1968

The election of 1968 was a wrenching national experience with Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey sparring at the ballot box. Race riots, the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were tearing the country apart. Read more about "The Year of Change" here.


What topics are covered in the musical?


  • be-in (an event, or a meeting of the young hip people)
  • racism
  • gender equality
  • environmental destruction
  • sexual revolution
  • hippie counterculture
  • generation gap
  • pacifism


Start a discussion:


  • Why did the year 1968 come to symbolize the 1960’s as a decade of change in America?

  • How does the term “generation gap” apply to the present generation?

  • What characters from the musical Hair resonate in today’s culture?

  • How was Hair a reflection of society at the time it was produced?

  • How did the music of Hair transcend cultural boundaries?


What's been said about the musical?


  • “Hair remains relevant as ever as it examines what it means to be a young person in a changing world.” Read more about it here.

  • “The musical broke new ground in musicals by defining the genre of ‘rock musical’, using a racially integrated cast, and inviting the audience onstage for a ‘Be-in’ finale. Read more about it here.

  • “Hair makes many references to Shakespeare’s plays, especially Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet.” Read more about it here.

  • “A colorful, exciting theatrical experience, it was filled with exciting music, brilliant dancing, and irreverent humor.” Read more about it here.


Useful Lesson Plans and Ideas


  1. Hippies and the Counterculture
  2. Hippies and the Counterculture: Origins, Beliefs and Legacy
  3. Sixties: The Years That Shaped a Generation
  4. 1968: A Time of Change
  5. The Vietnam Experience in Music


Where can I find out more?



1969 Tony Awards: Original Cast


2009 Tony Awards: Revival Cast


David Letterman Show: Aquarius and Let the Sunshine In




Up next month: South Pacific.  

Under the dark cloud of WWII, romance, duty, and prejudice intertwine on an idyllic island in South Pacific.


Happy Teaching! Please share your success in the classroom with us by posting about your lesson plan using the hashtag #TeachtheSongbook and tagging us @songbookfoundation.



A Note from the Author: I can’t imagine life without music. When tunes float by, memories flood in. My foot starts tapping, fingers start snapping, and I get caught up in the emotion of the song.  For 28 years, music was always a key component in my classroom. It never failed to grab the attention of my students and made past cultures come alive with connections to daily life.


I’m excited to open up a discussion about the new Songbook exhibit, Of Thee I sing Politics on Stage. It’s a storytelling device where cultural values are seen in the context of music. Including musical theater in your classroom has never been easier. Join me in this forum where you can share your lesson plans and get ideas from others. It’s your point of access for creative ways to engage your students through music. Tell me what works and what’s missing. Let’s start a conversation and get those toes tapping.


 Sue Ackley

Contact me at:


Keep an eye out for our other installments coming soon...