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Touring musical 'Hair' brings back memories, both old and new

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What: Broadway at the Embassy presents the iconic rock musical that depicts the cultural revolution born in the 1960s.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Embassy Theatre, 121 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Cost: $23, $38 and $53. They are available at the Embassy Theatre box office 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays, Ticketmaster outlets, and by calling 1-800-745-3000.

The performance takes place Tuesday night at the Embassy Theatre.

Thursday, March 6, 2014 - 12:01 am

“Gimme a head with hair

Long beautiful hair

Shining, gleaming,

Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there hair

Shoulder length or longer

Here baby, there mama

Everywhere daddy daddy

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair

Flow it, show it

Long as God can grow it

My hair”

Good lord, has it been 47 years since I used to belt out those lyrics (using a hairbrush as my microphone) in the privacy of my own bedroom?

The rock musical “Hair” debuted in 1967, reflecting the birth of the countercultural movement of that decade that sparked permanent changes in America. On Tuesday, Jam Theatricals brings the musical to the Embassy Theatre as part of the Broadway at the Embassy Series.

I was still a kid in the '60s, not able to absorb the cultural changes that were bugging so many of the adults. However, I had a sister eight years older, a bona fide hippie, and her clothes, musical tastes and liberal values fascinated me.

She bought the album “Hair,” and I pretty much immediately co-opted it for my after school entertainment.

We had a console stereo cabinet in the living room with a speaker hard-wired into my bedroom. I'd turn it up full blast, which was not like today's “full blast,” but I'm sure it drove my mother nuts.

And I'd sing. From “Aquarius” to “Good Morning Starshine,” I'd sing along. I remember one time my sister telling me cryptically to be careful repeating some of the words in the songs on “Hair.” I assume she was referring to the track called “Sodomy.” She needn't have worried — I didn't know what the words in that song meant until many, many years later.

And I doubt that anybody then could imagine the impact of “Hair,” and more importantly the societal changes taking place in the '60s, nearly 50 years later.

In 1967, a Supreme Court ruling made interracial marriage legal in all 50 states. Today, the battle is for legalization of same-sex marriage.

We could go on and on about the sexual revolution, peace activists, feminism and music of the '60s, but let's not rehash all of that. Some good and some bad changes were initiated in the '60s. Let's just leave it at that.

Instead, let's talk about hair. As in, hair on your head.

Back in the '60s, I remember adults were so irritated with those “long-haired hippies.” That rebellious head of male hair seemed to be screaming “screw you” to all the adults who looked at those hippies with scorn.

I think we're way over that. Today, it's not unusual, at least in most mid-sized to large cities, to see a guy walking around with pink-tipped spiked hair. It seems more than ever, your hair can be an expression of your individuality.

And whether you wear it “long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen …” blah, blah, blah, I can tell you one way you probably don't want to wear it: bald.

That was my experience starting last year when chemotherapy made my hair fall out. With all the nasty side effects of chemo, I can tell you losing your hair, at least to some people, is the most heartbreaking.

I remember getting chemo one day, listening to a nurse explaining the ropes to a young woman seated next to me who was undergoing her first round of chemo. (So much for HIPPA laws. Medical people, get a clue: A curtain does not block out a conversation.)

Anyway (and I wasn't eavesdropping, really), this woman stayed strong through the description of all the yucky side effects of chemo until the nurse mentioned her hair would fall out. And then she started crying.

Looking back, I can say the hair loss for me was the least of it. The nausea, loss of taste, body aches and bone-weary fatigue were the worst, hands down. I had wanted to keep my cancer secret. When I found out I was going to go bald, the jig was up.

In fact, at practically the first sign my hair was coming out, I had my husband get out his clippers and shave my head. When you're dealing with cancer, there's so little you can control. I wasn't about to weep and pout over hair on my pillow every morning, the way they often do in melodramatic movies. In a matter of 20 minutes, it was gone.

I tried wigs, but they were very warm and uncomfortable in the summer. I ended up wearing scarves. When it got cold, I switched to knit hats. When my eyebrows fell out, I drew them in. When my eyelashes fell out, I lined my eyes with eyeliner. Screw cancer.

I'm happy to say my chemo is over, and my hair is slowly growing back. So are my eyelashes and eyebrows.

My hair is about 3/4 inch long, so I'm still wearing hats. But I love touching it and looking at it. After years of dying my hair, and before that, perming it, I'm thrilled to see it and touch it in its natural state. It's soft, like baby hair.

It feels like a rebirth.

Cindy Larson is a reporter and restaurant news columnist for The News-Sentinel