Now, Led Zeppelin were always far more subtle in their musical drug references — although behind the scenes, they allegedly indulged as much as anyone. The wistful “Going to California” is a perfect example. Here, both the song’s protagonist and the band’s backing melodies seem to waver drastically between chilled out bliss and understandable paranoia — and it all begins with the woman unkind who smoked his stuff and drank all his wine. Damn that woman!
You don’t have to be a music nerd to know that Age of Aquarius ambassadors Steppenwolf definitely knew a thing or two about euphoric chemicals and their kaleidoscopic effect on music listeners. And yet, John Kay and company didn’t tackle herbal benefits, specifically, until their sophomore album, and its very groovy, thinly veiled guide to pot etiquette “Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam.” (Stay tuned until the closing bust, maaan!)
Little Feat leader Lowell George poetically articulated the lengths to which he’d go to get himself some “weed, whites and wine” on this, his terminally underrated band’s best known song. Too bad not enough music buyers paid enough attention to make “Willin'” the monster hit it should have been, perhaps because its bittersweet melodies disguised the “wink-wink” wordplay at hand with their sheer beauty.
This absolute classic (co-penned by founding Mother of Invention Elliot Ingber) first appeared on Fraternity of Man’s eponymous debut in 1968, but would gain mainstream renown the following year, when it was included in the counterculture zeitgeist-capturing road movie Easy Rider and its influential soundtrack. Its laid-back swing is more country rock than classic rock, but what would our list of pot songs be without it?
Neil Young put in an Oscar-worthy performance as the convincingly stoned protagonist of this chuckle-inducing favorite from the otherwise somber Tonight’s the Night album. Yes, the album may have focused primarily on addressing the dispiriting comedown of the ‘70s, following the liberating promises of the ‘60s, but with this song, at least, Young reminded listeners that a little smoke could still offer some means of escape from cold, harsh reality.
From: ‘Wildflowers’ (1994)
While some artists on this list at least tried to camouflage their ganja references behind amusing or elliptical lyrics, the men in Black Sabbath felt no qualms about declaring their love of the “Sweet Leaf,” with amplifiers turned up to eleven! In doing so, this anthem in particular, and the colossally down-tuned Master of Reality album as a whole, became the definitive cornerstone of stoner rock.
From: ‘Tonight’s the Night’ (1975)
From: ‘Master of Reality’ (1972)
10 rock songs about marijuana.
This sunny, soulful track from 1966’s Revolver LP is generally thought of as one of the Fab Four’s many upbeat love songs – but according to Paul McCartney, the love object in this particular instance is a weed, not a woman. “‘Got to Get You into My Life’ was one I wrote when I had first been introduced to pot,” he told Barry Miles for the 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now. “I’d been a rather straight working-class lad but when we started to get into pot it seemed to me to be quite uplifting. It didn’t seem to have too many side effects like alcohol or some of the other stuff, like pills, which I pretty much kept off. I kind of liked marijuana. I didn’t have a hard time with it and to me it was mind-expanding, literally mind-expanding. So ‘Got to Get You Into My Life’ is really a song about that, it’s not to a person, it’s actually about pot. It’s saying, ‘I’m going to do this. This is not a bad idea.’”
“I never have and never will write a drug song,” Bob Dylan famously announced during his legendary performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May 1966, but that hasn’t stopped several generations of dope smokers from adopting the lead track from Blonde on Blonde (which also hit Number Two on the Billboard singles chart in the spring of ’66) as an anthem. The song’s woozy chorus of “Everybody must get stoned!” is obviously responsible, along with the claim that “rainy day woman” is old-school weed-head slang for a joint – though some new-school stoners will also helpfully point out that 12 times 35 equals 420, maaan. The Mighty Zimm, however, continues to insist that the stoning in question was Biblical, not herbal. “It doesn’t surprise me that some people would see it that way,” he told Rolling Stone in 2012. “But these are people that aren’t familiar with the Book of Acts.”
“What am I without herb, and what is herb without me?” Peter Tosh asked Rolling Stone in 1981, a rhetorical question if there ever was one. Certainly, marijuana had no greater reggae proponent in the Seventies and Eighties than the former Wailer, who launched his solo career in 1975 with this legalization anthem, which includes the decades-ahead-of-its-time assertion that ganja is “good for tuberculosis.” Tosh’s 1976 album of the same name had the additional stoner cachet of being bankrolled by a marijuana distributor. “He approached a pot dealer in Miami to invest in the album, and the dealer agreed,” reggae historian Roger Steffens told NPR in 2011. “He said, ‘So what are you gonna call it?’ And Peter said, ‘I’m gonna call it Legalize It.’ And the dealer got really upset and said, ‘No, man, you’re gonna put me out of business!’ But eventually he changed his mind and gave Peter the money.”
L.A.-based folkies Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley scored a surprise Top 10 hit in the spring of 1971 with this catchy little ditty – often introduced in concert as “our cannabis spiritual” – about waiting for a train while being more than slightly baked. “One day we were pretty much stoned and all,” Brewer told Rolling Stone in April 1971, “and Tom says, ‘Man, I’m one toke over the line tonight.’ I liked the way it sounded and so I wrote a song about it.” The song might have risen even higher in the charts if the FCC hadn’t suddenly stepped in with a helpful reminder to U.S. radio programmers regarding the actual meaning of “toke” – a term apparently still relatively obscure at the time among non-tokers, given that TV’s ultra-wholesome The Lawrence Welk Show didn’t think twice about featuring the song on their program.
From Louis Armstrong to Lady Gaga, countless musicians have gone on record about their love for weed. Smoking can help with creativity, aid in relaxation, even expand the mind. But some artists take the practice even further, going out of their way to write musical odes to the sticky green stuff, whether it’s coded as a love interest – see the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life” or D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar – or right there in the name, like Afroman’s “Because I Got High.” No matter how you roll it, songs about pot keep the party going in any genre. Here are the 20 best weed-themed songs of all time.
From Dylan and the Beatles to Afroman and Snoop – with a little bit of Willie sprinkled on top – the best songs for stoners of all stripes
Marley followed up 1977’s landmark Exodus – an album focused on religion, politics and faith – with an album that was decidedly more laid-back in temperament. And nowhere was this more evident than on Kaya‘s title track, an ode to chasing away the rain (both literal and metaphorical) with a bit of the titular plant (“kaya,” Marley once explained, is Jamaican slang for “herb”). Over a lilting rhythm, Marley essentially wakes and bakes, and before long declares that he is “feeling irie” (Rastafari for “good”). Why? “Because I have some kaya now.”
Let’s be honest: At one time or another, we’ve all been Tony Iommi at the beginning of “Sweet Leaf,” hacking away in agonized bliss after a particularly large hit. The Sabbath guitarist’s tape-looped cough serves as the perfect segue into the song’s iconic sludgy riff (a riff that, it should be noted, later popped up everywhere from the Beastie Boys’ “Rhymin’ and Stealin’ ” to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away”). Reportedly, the song’s title was nicked from a brand of Irish cigarettes that touted its product as “the sweet leaf,” but it’s Ozzy’s words that best capture the youthful excitement of a new, yet sadly unrequited, love: “I love you sweet leaf,” he sings, “though you can’t hear.”
Recorded in the wake of the deaths of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry, Tonight’s the Night is the sound of a man and a band in the depths of chemical- and alcohol-assisted despair. “I’m not a junkie,” Young said in 1975 about making the album. “But we’d get really high – drink a lot of tequila, get right out on the edge.” But if he was fueled primarily by booze, it certainly sounds like some weed was added to the proceedings for “Roll Another Number,” as Young struggles to start his car and declares himself “a million miles away” from the hippie days of Woodstock. Far from celebratory, the song’s overall mood is closer to, as Crazy Horse bassist Billy Talbot once described it, “a drunken Irish wake.”
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