Songs Of The Spliff

Popular culture has been portraying and celebrating recreational drug use since before Easy Rider. From Fast Times at Ridgemont High to Pineapple Express, with anything put out by Cheech and Chong in between, cinema has long been an avenue of expression by and for those who find enjoyment in the counter-culture. This has come about despite the best efforts of both a prohibitionist government and the Just Say No crowd.

Not Just In The Movies

Another such Bacchanalian vent is found in the music industry. Reefer gladness has practically been the calling card of some recent bands, such as Cypress Hill (“Hit From The Bong”) or the Toyes “(Smoke Two Joints” which sublime also has a version of). Marijuana references are found in rock ‘n roll, blues, jazz, country, and most of all, reggae. Indeed, High Times magazine has proclaimed Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It” to the Number One Marijuana Anthem of All Time.

Legendary Roots

Way back in 1932, Cab Calloway made a huge career for himself with the whimsical “Reefer Man.” Music had barely gone electric when Muddy Waters released his single, “Champagne and Reefer” (a close parallel to John Lee Hooker’s “Whisky and Reefer”). Bob Dylan had a song called “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35″, but the only line from the song that anyone cares to remember is the chorus: “Everybody Must Get Stoned”. The highest-charting ode to herb was Brewer and Shipley’s “One Toke Over the Line” in 1971. Later in the decade, Rick James joined the game with his funky “Mary Jane” (a harbinger of James’ drug problems to come).

The list of songs devoted to bongs and the things that people smoke through them spans almost a century, from the subtle (Musical Youth’s “Pass the Dutchie”) to the overt (the Butthole Surfers’ “Bong Song”). The recording industry doesn’t seem interesting in restricting the material put out by their artists. The record companies, it turns out, are interested in another kind of green entirely.

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