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Milestones

THE B-LIST: Happy birthday to A. Ham, the $10 Founding Father

Thursday is the 263rd birthday of the human embodiment of the "fight me" emoji: Alexander Hamilton.

If you're a student of American history, you knew his name prior to 2015. Perhaps you read Ron Chernow's brick of a biography when it hit stores back in 2004. Or maybe you just remember the name from a high school class, or recognize his face thanks to all of those $10 bills in your wallet.

But for all of A. Ham's accomplishments — he was the creator of our country's financial system and the first Secretary of the Treasury; an ardent defender of the Constitution; the founder of the Federalist Party, the U.S. Coast Guard and The New York Post — he had become a somewhat shadowy, vague figure in modern times.

He was a name and a face. Nothing more.

Enter Lin-Manuel Miranda.

You may think it hyperbolic when I call Miranda the modern Shakespeare, but it's true: no other contemporary playwright deserves that title more.

Like Shakespeare, Miranda has his thumb squarely on the pulse of society. He's prolific and raw, eloquent and emotional, loud and often silly. He speaks to and for the masses.

And I suspect Willy Shakes would have gone crazy over "Hamilton," with its knotty lyricality, moments of vulgarity, tragicomedy and extensive detail.

The Bard, after all, was a bawdy guy who breathed new life into dead kings. And who but Miranda would look at a half-forgotten Founding Father and decide, "You know what this world needs? A rap-heavy musical about that guy."

"Hamilton" has won nearly every award possible, including a slew of Tonys, a Pulitzer, an Obie — oh, and it's smashed every sales record in existence. Waiting lists are months if not years long to see it performed live. And the cast? Almost entirely people of color.

As Miranda says: it's the story of America then, told by America now. The musical about a key figure in the American Revolution has become a revolution in its own right.

Chances are good you've already heard at least some of "Hamilton" by now; or, like me, you already have it committed to heart. But if you haven't, here are the essential tracks to check out:

10. "ALEXANDER HAMILTON." Gotta start at the beginning. It's an overture, a patter-fast introduction and a healthy dose of foreshadowing all in one. Chernow even praised Miranda for condensing 300 pages of his book into a single song.

9. "MY SHOT." Alex and Co. lay everything out for us over some beers. "I'm past patiently waitin'; I'm passionately smashin' every expectation, every action's an act of creation!" exults the ever-eloquent hero.

8. "SATISFIED." Renée Elise Goldsberry's Angelica beautifully raps her way through heartbreak in one of the catchiest numbers in the whole show.

7. "WAIT FOR IT." Antagonist Aaron Burr's character-defining solo is made especially memorable by Leslie Odom Jr.'s velvet pipes.

6. "GUNS AND SHIPS." Daveed Diggs' rap is the fastest in the entire musical, but I won't lie: my favorite part remains, "EVERYONE GIVE IT UP FOR AMERICA'S FAVORITE FIGHTIN' FRENCHMAN, LAFAYETTE!"

5. "YORKTOWN (THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN)." "Immigrants — we get tha job done," Hamilton and Lafayette remind us in the dramatic conclusion to the Revolutionary War and one of the most rousing ensemble numbers.

4. "NON-STOP." The close to Act 1 gives everyone a chance to shine and begs the question: "Why do you write like you're running out of time?"

3. "IT'S QUIET UPTOWN." If you can make it through this poignant elegy without sobbing, you may not have a soul.

2. "THE WORLD WAS WIDE ENOUGH." For the first time, Hamilton waits and Burr acts — and the tragedy is complete.

1. "WHO LIVES, WHO DIES, WHO TELLS YOUR STORY?" Oh boy, and here come the tears again. It's beautiful. It's depressing. It's one of the finest epilogues ever written. "Every other Founding Father's story gets told," says Angelica. And thanks to Eliza Hamilton— and Lin-Manuel Miranda — the entire world knows the $10 Founding Father's.

• ANGIE BARRY is a page designer and columnist for The Times. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers pop culture, history and literature, contact her at angieb@mywebtimes.com.

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