Saturday, 05 February 2011
There have been songs behind every political and social movement since the advent of recorded music: "Give Peace a Chance," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "This Land is Your Land" (you need to read the last verse to appreciate the song's true meaning), "Redemption Song," "Imagine," "Say it Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)," and "Prove it on Me Blues," are a few that come to mind. The stoner movement has been no different, especially with weed's presence in, well, almost all modern American music. Or at least the relevant, original, and good stuff.
Whether an artist was making a statement about legalization, pride, or just having a good time, here are some of the best songs about getting high:
"Reefer Man," Cab Calloway: This song was released in 1932, the heyday of reefer madness, and I'm pretty sure it was the first song explicitly about smoking pot. Calloway performed other songs for the cartoon Betty Boop, and also did a series of Paramount films in the early 1930's. In one of these, International House, his Missourians performed "Reefer Man," meaning some of our great grandparents saw this on the very first generation of household televisions. Calloway is also famous for replacing Duke Ellington at the world-famous Cotton Club, and for breaking the major network color barrier along with Ellington. He's also one fine scat-singer.
Anyway, in the video, Calloway calls the bass player the "reefer man," as the rest of the band informs him that "he's high...on the weed!" But the bass player also makes the song; crank up the bass (he's playing an upright that is not heavily amplified like we're used to these days) and let it take you for a walk.
"Play the Game," Queen: This is a song about letting down your inhibitions and just living and loving. Freddy Mercury encourages us to "open up your mind and let me step inside," and to "light another cigarette, and let yourself go." On a deeper level, the song is about living your life based on your own moral codes and to make decisions based on what you want, not what your told. If there's any more confusion, read some Jean-Paul Sartre.
"Smoke Two Joints," Sublime (originally by The Toyes): "Smoke two joints in time of peace, and two in time of war." The nineties were great. Also notable is the soundbite from the 1930's anti-"marihuana" propaganda film Reefer Madness. "One of them was a male, and the other two... Well, the other two were females. And God only knows what they were up to in there."
"Burn One Down," Ben Harper: Ben Harper does a great job at telling off all the haters, while still remaining cheery and groovy. I love that the song uses a djembe too. And how the djembe player has dreadlocks, a Jamaican wrist band, and the biggest smile I've ever seen. The Bonnaroo crowd gets really into it too, and the air is definitely looking a little hazy.
"Because I Got High," Afroman: Afroman tells a story about how his life has been ruined due to him constantly getting lit. The funny thing is how much stoners can relate to some of the verses ("I was gonna clean my room, I was gonna go to class, go to work, make love to you...but then I got high.") The end of the song gets a little ridiculous, as Afroman is so paranoid that he flees the cops and ends up becoming a paraplegic. Thankfully, we are reminded of how absurd this is, and how oversleeping now and then is really no biggie. So yes, we should definitely make this trip to Waffle House right now.
"Mary Jane," Rick James: James' "punk-funk" style captures the groovy ganja swagger, and the lyrics personify Mary Jane as a girl that James is into, but doesn't mind the fact that many other men also are. "I love her just the same."
This piece by James has been featured in plenty of later songs, been remixed for the film Half Baked, and also made an appearance in the game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.
"Up Up & Away (The Wake & Bake Song)," Kid Cudi:The last song on Cudi's breakout album, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day. Honestly, the album's final three tracks should all be on this list ("Pursuit of Happiness," "Hyyerr," and this one).
"Rainy Day Woman # 12 & 35," Bob Dylan:This song is just so playful and happy, with crazy funny lyrics, it makes me laugh every time. Especially that goofy-ass cackle in the background. ("Everybody must get stoned!)
"When I Get Low, I Get High," Ella Fitzgerald: The "first lady of song" teaches us how she copes with the blues. I also find it hilarious that Ronald Reagan - less of a champion than only Nixon of the "war on drugs" - awarded Ella the National Medal of Art, and George Bush Sr. bestowed upon her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
"Pass the Dutchie," Musical Youth: Even though this song, a cover of the Might Diamonds' "Pass the Koutchie," was stripped of all obvious drug references, it's not too discrete. The song also became quite popular, and the attempts to keep out one slang only inspired a new one.
"Smokin' Smokin' Weed," Snoop Dogg: I mean, you knew Snoop had to be on here somewhere, it was just a matter of what song.
"Rub A Dub," 311: This song is so chill. It really makes me wish I was sitting on the beach, especially because there is snow on the ground outside at the moment. "Stick to the way you rock it just do it real slow. Nobody can really say cuz nobody really know Only thing that matters if it's funky to you. You got a choice of what you can do."
Power to the people: what are your favorite songs about "funny cigarettes?"