The 4/20 holiday is upon us, and if you’re feeling the spirit properly, you’re probably in no shape to make a playlist yourself. So we’ve taken the liberty of picking 25 of the best songs about marijuana in music history – some explicitly in honour of it, others clearly just inspired by the green stuff. We’re hoping it provides a soundtrack for indulgers and a contact buzz for everybody else. After all, 4/20 is currently looking like the only holiday that you can celebrate in the same way you always did…
Think we’ve missed any of your best songs about dope? Let us know in the comments section, below.
Best Songs About Marijuana: 25 Dope Tracks To Help Get Your Buzz On
25: Weezer: ‘Hash Pipe’
As long as Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo has his hash pipe, there’ll always be killer pop hooks and dry humour in store. The story goes that Cuomo isn’t actually much of a stoner, and really wrote the song under the influence of Ritalin and tequila. But the song does nail a certain situation, where the right supplies are a must for attracting the opposite sex.
24: Method Man and Redman: ‘How High’
There aren’t any outright marijuana references in this vintage bit of Red & Meth interplay, but the toking sounds (and the opening Hendrix quote) tell the story. Besides, how many not-stoned people would come up with the idea of sampling Silver Convention’s disco nugget ‘Fly, Robin, Fly’.
23: Dr Dre: ‘The Next Episode’
As this list bears out, the canon of songs about marijuana is loaded with sunny sentiments and good-natured novelties. What Dr Dre and his associates (including Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, who guest on the track) managed was to put it in a tougher, more threatening context. For all the hot-button lyrics on this track, the closing “smoke marijuana everyday” still managed to get censored for the radio edit.
22: Fats Waller: ‘If You’re A Viper’
Perhaps the earliest, coolest (and most famous) reefer song in jazz, this was originated by gypsy-jazz violinist Stuff Smith in 1937 and was later cut by a host of others, most famously Fats Waller (though a female singer, Rosetta Howard, did it before him). Everybody shared the dream of “a reefer five feet long”, but only The Manhattan Transfer version (on their very first album, Jukin’, kept Smith’s wording of the title: ‘If you’se A Viper’.
21: NRBQ: ‘Wacky Tobacky’
One of the most feelgood bands in history, NRBQ can zero in on the most fun aspects of any topic, and their marijuana song (an album opener, no less, on 1980’s Kick Me Hard) was no exception. Opening with a blast of party horns and containing some sublimely goofy rhymes, it effectively sounds like everybody – the band, the engineers, probably the neighbours and the delivery guy – were off their gourds.
20: Jim Stafford: ‘Wildwood Marijuana’
After busting one taboo with ‘My Girl Bill’, Stafford managed a follow-up hit with this equally cheeky tune, perhaps the first Top 10 hit that was pro-pot with no ambiguity at all. Stafford was a genial enough personality to pull it off – and even got a network TV show soon after.
19: John Prine: ‘Illegal Smile’
John Prine never wasted a minute of dry wit, and even though this is something of a party song, it also captured the paranoia of being a marijuana enthusiast in the early 70s, when a bit of indulgence could still land you in jail.
18: Neil Diamond: ‘The Pot Smoker’s Song’
It’s only fair that we include one anti-marijuana song on this list. Neil Diamond’s tune (from his most odd album, 1968’s Velvet Gloves And Spit) is nothing less than the Reefer Madness of music, alternating a chipper “Gimme some pot” chorus with spoken testimonials about various nightmares that befell addicts.
17: Afroman: ‘Because I Got High’
If this one were more serious, we could also list it as an anti-pot song; after all, the hero does himself a load of damage by staying high all the time. But as the accompanying video and general tone of the song makes clear, the best way of getting over those troubles is to get high some more.
16: The Ink Spots: ‘That Cat Is High’
Yes, songs about marijuana have been around for so long that America’s first great jazz vocal group did one – a pretty jovial one, too, celebrating the fact that this particular cat is higher than a kite. The lyric only says he’s been drinking, but the singers probably knew better. And since it was only 1938, whatever he was doing was completely legal.
15: Lana Del Rey: ‘High By The Beach’
The current queen of elegant decadence weighs in, in a suitably elegant and decadent way. In Lana Del Ray’s case, getting high provides an escape from a destructive relationship, and one more sad thing to languidly contemplate.
14: Humble Pie: ‘Only A Roach’
This country-tinged tune (written and sung by drummer Jerry Shirley) tells the real-life story of how Humble Pie were busted for possession of a small amount of contraband just before a US tour, jeopardising their chances of entering the country. Thus the singalong chorus: “Only a roach won’t keep us from crossing no ocean!” As their live album Performance Rockin’ The Fillmore attests, they made it.
13: The Selecter: ‘My Collie (Not A Dog)’
Probably for obvious reasons, there aren’t a lot of fast, danceable songs about marijuana. But the 2-Tone ska bands were into it, too, and they weren’t about to slow down just because of a lyric. ‘My Collie (Not A Dog)’ by The Selecter is as jubilant as the rest of their Too Much Pressure album, with the usual shot of sexiness from Pauline Black’s vocal interjections.
12: Cypress Hill: ‘Hits From The Bong’
Aside from a few references in Beastie Boys songs, Cypress Hill took the lead in bringing stoner consciousness into hip-hop, and this track introduces the deep bass and laidback groove that would become familiar in years to come. Before its release, bong hits were little more than a Cheech & Chong punchline; now they were forever a Cypress Hill punchline.
11: Rick James: ‘Mary Jane’
Granted, using the name to mean you-know-what was already a little old-fashioned by 1981. But Rick James works the double-entendre for all it’s worth, turning Mary Jane into a woman that’s super-freaky. Also, the line “Mary wanna play around” is still funny.
10: Dash Rip Rock: ‘Let’s Go Smoke Some Pot’
One of New Orleans’ favourite rock’n’roll bands had a leftfield hit in the mid-90s, when a song they’d been encoring with for years got on the radio. Based loosely on ‘At The Hop’, the song pokes plenty of fun at hippies and their favourite bands, but does so good-naturedly enough that they didn’t mind.
9: Brewer & Shipley: ‘One Toke Over the Line’
Not necessarily a song about marijuana, but one that uses pot imagery about a certain situation. If you’re “one toke over the line”, you’ve had enough and need to move on. You’ve probably seen the hilariously wrong clip of the wholesome Lawrence Welk singers performing this tune on his TV show – a clip that Brewer & Shipley admitted that they later dug up and uploaded to Facebook themselves.
8: The Mighty Diamonds: ‘Pass The Kouchie’
One of the most infectious of all reggae odes to the herb, this song – appropriately – sounds both spiritual and good-timey. The version most people know is the hit by Musical Youth, but since they were all children, they cleaned it up to ‘Pass The Dutchie’ and made it about a different kind of pot: the kind you cook in.
7: Neil Young: ‘Homegrown’
Neil Young has two stoner anthems to his credit, ‘Roll Another Number For The Road’ and this tune, possibly the only good-time songs to emerge during his “dark” era of Tonight’s The Night and On The Beach. We went with ‘Homegrown’ because it’s still catchy after all these years, and because it’s the title track to a lost album that he swears is about to be released.
6: Peter Tosh: ‘Legalize It’
Of all the reggae songs about marijuana, this one is the clearest call to action. Peter Tosh waxes poetic about the good that marijuana can do, urges you not to criticise it, and promises “legalise it, and I will advertise it”. Sure enough, he recorded public-service announcements for its legalisation, which appear on the expanded CD reissue of the album. No doubt he’d be glad to see how far we’ve come.
5: Sublime: ‘Smoke Two Joints’
The stoner theme of the 80s and early 90s, this song was as single-minded as it was hilarious (don’t even bother trying to figure out how many joints the guy in the song wound up ingesting). It originally came about when Omaha reggae band The Toyes were hanging out in Hawaii and started feeling the spirit, but Sublime put a rockier spin on it in 1992. ‘Smoke Two Joints’ has also been covered by half the high-school bands that ever played.
4: Willie Nelson: ‘Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die’
Even though there wasn’t a single fan who didn’t know Willie Nelson loved his marijuana, it took him until 2012 (on 20 April, naturally) to release a great song about it. Musically, it shows the scope of his appeal (you’d never get Snoop Dogg and Kris Kristofferson on the same record otherwise); lyrically, it’s less a simple stoner song than a Willie-style existential treatise.
3: Bob Marley & The Wailers: ‘Kaya’
Not many people could make a poetic song out of a sentiment like “I need to get stoned because it’s raining”, but this beatific Bob Marley song – which changed the sentiment only slightly, to “Got to have kaya now, for the rain is falling” – is one of the more joyful moments in the later, politically charged stage of his career.
2: Bob Dylan: ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’
Keep in mind that this is a Bob Dylan song, so the obvious meaning of the chorus line “Everybody must get stoned!” is only one of many. But it’s surely the meaning that audiences have in mind when they shout along every time Dylan (or anybody else) plays it live.
Black Sabbath: ‘Sweet Leaf’
The classic opener of their third album, Master Of Reality, ‘Sweet Leaf’ took Sabbath away from occult themes and into territory where they really felt at home. It was arguably the first stoner metal song, and in some ways it’s still the greatest one of all – both for the passion in Ozzy Osbourne’s vocal (he even shouts “I love you!” at one point) and for the deathless thunder of Tony Iommi’s riff. And, of course, for the greatest cough in rock’n’roll history.
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