Now that the world is in the midst of a full-blown pandemic whose only solution is for people to isolate themselves for months at a time, you may have realized that our list of great stoner movies (not to mention a great Netflix doc about the history of weed) might be the second-best companion to those long boring days (second-best after the cannabis products you pair the movies with, that is).
And while there are plenty of great (and not-great) stoner movies out there, the number pales in comparison to the number of songs written about pot. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at a small fraction of them (since to profile all of them would require an entirely separate blog). They span the entire range of genres, from country to jazz to hip hop to (duh) reggae. Here are some of the coolest cannabis tunes we could find:
- Because I Got High by Afroman. Probably the most famous one-hit wonder about letting weed ruin your life, Because I Got High was an almost overnight worldwide success. Noteworthy for its simple rhymes and unadorned backbeat, Afroman’s classic is either a sad story of psychological addiction or a subtle mockery of the image of weed-smokers as irresponsible layabouts. Rapper Joseph Edgar Foreman, better known by his stage name, still makes a living as an entertainer, but has in part moved on to producing gospel. Oh, and he’s released more than thirty albums since 1998. Pretty good for a guy whose major claim to fame is singing about being a lazy bum who makes terrible decisions.
- Pass The Kouchie by The Mighty Diamonds, and therefore Pass The Dutchie by Musical Youth. Pass The Dutchie is probably the more widely-known song, but it owes a major debt to the original Mighty Diamonds song, which (a) it more or less covered in its entirety, and (b) was much more clearly about weed. There’s a lot of poetic justice at play here: “Kouchie” is slang for a weed pipe; in the cover, “Dutchie” was substituted and most of the weed-focused lyrics were rewritten to be about food. But in the years since the release of “Pass The Dutchie,” the word “Dutchie” has been effectively redefined to mean “joint.”
- Weed With Willie by Toby Keith. Proof that even heartland conservatives like to sample the bud, All-American boy Toby Keith sings a sad tale of having his mind blown by a single toke from fellow country musician Willie Nelson’s stash. A live track from the album Shock’n Y’all (get it?), it shares vinyl with I Love This Bar, the song whose name Keith’s investors gave to the chain restaurant they founded to capitalize on his popularity. Anyway, Weed With Willie is a great song and pays homage to one of the greatest country musicians and cannabis advocates around.
- Mary Jane by Rick James. Possibly the funkiest weed jam of all time, “Mary Jane”… might actually just be about an actual human woman named Mary Jane. The second single from James’ 1978 debut album, it’s kind of a prequel to his more popular hit, “Super Freak,” if it is indeed about a woman. In truth, this is one of those many, many songs that could go either way; as with “Pass The Dutchie,” lots of popular pot songs are forced to obfuscate their true meanings by hiding them behind more socially acceptable things, like the sexual objectification of women.
- I Like Marijuana by David Peel And The Lower East Side. It takes a while for this track to get to the actual music – David Peel was an outspoken advocate of not only marijuana legalization, but a wide swath of left-wing causes like police brutality and opposition to foreign wars. The first minute of the five-minute track on Peel’s debut album Have a Marijuana is filled with polemic satire, but just as you’re about to click the “next” button, “I Like Marijuana” swings into an addictively singable call-and-response anthem that you’ll want to listen to again and again. Just, y’know, skip the hippie stuff in that first minute.
- Sweet Leaf by Black Sabbath. This isn’t one of those songs that hides its pot-positive message behind metaphors and lyrical subterfuge. What’s more, that message is extraordinarily pot positive, as Ozzy sings about cannabis treating depression: “My life was empty, forever on a down/Until you took me, showed me around/My life is free now, my life is clear.” Of course, Ozzy didn’t stop at weed, and let drugs negatively impact his life in a way that’s clear to anyone who sees him. But that doesn’t mean cannabis can’t help people with depression and anxiety, and the message of this song will always be valuable.
- It’s So Nice To Be Stoned by White Witch. Since they hail from Florida and they signed to the same label as the Allman Brothers and the Marshall Tucker Band, it might be easy to assume White Witch is a southern rock band, but their sound is a lot broader than that. This song has a ragtime Country-Joe-and-the-Fish feel to it, with lyrics that unmistakably and unabashedly lionize cannabis. But because of White Witch’s esoteric sound, their label, Capricorn Records, had trouble marketing the two LPs the band recorded during its lifetime, so “It’s So Nice To Be Stoned” remains a relatively obscure pot song. But they’re a great band, and the rest of their songs are worth enjoying.
- Legalize It by Peter Tosh. This is a big one. Spotlighted in the Netflix doc we mentioned earlier, “Legalize It” is a paean to widespread pot availability, recorded by reggae royalty. But contrary to what many might think, “Legalize It” doesn’t simply advocate the use of weed for relaxation and good times. Instead, Tosh argues in favor of medical applications, listing a series of ailments whose symptoms can be addressed by weed. Of course, reasonable people can quibble over the song’s medical efficacy; despite what Tosh sings, it’s unlikely that cannabis really combats the flu in any meaningful way. But according to the song, doctors and nurses smoke weed, so let’s follow their lead.