Lin-Manual Miranda released the star-studded song “Almost Like Praying” on Thursday night for the benefit of Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico.
The track, which is a love song to the country, was recorded alongside an all-star cast of Latin artists including Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Gina Rodriguez, Fat Joe, Gloria Estefan and Camila Cabello. The proceeds of the song will go directly to UNIDOS Disaster Relief Fund of Hispanic Federation, according to Rolling Stone.
“You know how we always tell artists ‘stay in your lane’ anytime they say something remotely political? I’m trying to use what I do in service of this challenge,” Miranda told Rolling Stone. “We’re facing a humanitarian crisis right now. And the response from our federal government is not commensurate with the previous two hurricanes, much less up to the unprecedented danger of this disaster itself.”
The 37-year-old singer started to work on the song, an adaptation of “Maria” from 1961’s West Side Story, two days after the hurricane first made landfall. The lyrics mentioned all the towns in Puerto Rico.
“I knew the name Maria was forever going to have a destructive connotation to this island,” Miranda explained. “It’s also the name of my favorite song from West Side Story. So my brain was already looking for a sample to flip … And that’s what we do in hip-hop, right? We take a sample, we flip it and change the meaning. And so the hook of the song is, ‘Say it soft, and it’s almost like praying.'”
Initially, Miranda asked permission from Stephen Sondheim and the estate of Leonard Bernstein. “They gave their blessing within a day,” the Tony award-winning artist said. “When there’s a crisis, you call in all the favors – call the gods of musical theater! I have the great fortune to count Sondheim as a mentor and a friend. I worked with him and Bernstein on the 2009 revival of West Side Story and its Spanish translations. Sondheim wrote back immediately and said ‘Yes – and what else can I do?'”
Puerto Rico was devastated by the hurricane two weeks ago and millions of people who live on the Caribbean island and U.S. territory have been homeless, with no food, water and electricity. Celebrities such as Lopez and Daddy Yankee have donated million dollars to help rebuild the island, E! News reports.