If you made up a list of the inspiration for songs recorded since the early '60s, love would take the top spot. Loss might be next. Cannabis would be no lower than third.
Between songs about the love of cannabis and the loss of cannabis, that's pretty much the Billboard Top 200 from 1967 to 1976.
Since it's 4/20, let's look at some of the clever (and many of the not-so-subtle) ways some of our favorite artists referred to their favorite past-time in some of their classic tunes.
The Beatles - "I Am the Walrus"
There's some debate as to what the gang vocals in the outro of this song are really saying. A long-standing belief is that they are chanting "Everybody smoke pot / everybody smoke pot." Others say it's a much more innocent "Everybody jump up / everybody jump up."
Regardless, the Beatles smoked enough grass in their day to feed generations of cattle. They make the list!
Paul McCartney and Wings - "Hi Hi Hi"
Did we mention the walrus was Paul? Well, Paul couldn't have been more clear about what he liked to do after concerts than in this one.
The Allman Brothers Band - "Midnight Rider"
Greg Allman wrote this song in a cabin in the woods. He reportedly felt much more comfortable getting high when there weren't any police around. A rough draft of "Midnight Rider" came out in about an hour, he says, but then again, stoners don't have the best grasp of time, do they?
Pink Floyd - "Time"
Dark Side of the Moon is one of the best albums there is to listen to while high. This choice track seems to refer to the effect marijuana has on one's internal clock.
Jimi Hendrix - "Purple Haze"
Jimi Hendrix never admitted publicly that this song had anything to do with drugs (to do so at that time wouldn't have been very bad for his career), but we've got a pretty good feeling we catch his drift...
Bob Dylan - "Rainy Day Woman"
Dylan supposedly referred to joints as rainy day women. God knows why, but "Everybody must get stoned" is the refrain to this classic. The guy didn't win a Nobel Prize for nothin'!
Aerosmith - "Reefer Head Woman"
This swaggery, 12-bar blues was originally recorded in 1940 and became a live staple of Aerosmith's after they covered it on Night in the Ruts. It's probably one bartenders like hearing, too! With lyrics like "Well, I gots to drink me two fifths of whiskey / Just to get half as high," it seems the band was a fan of this lady.
Neil Young - "Roll Another Number (For the Road)"
Neil's honky tonk-inspired 'good riddance' to hippies song ironically became kind of an anthem for the Woodstock generation.
Black Sabbath - "Sweet Leaf"
This is one of Black Sabbath's only love songs, and it's to weed. If you listen to the lyrics, they're actually pretty adorable. "I love you, sweet leaf / though you can't hear."
Bob Marley - "Kaya"
There's a lot in Bob Marley's catalog that's appropriate for any 4/20 list. Here's one about waking and baking. "I feel so high, I even touch the sky / Above the falling rain."
The Doors - "Light My Fire"
Jim Morrison never had a problem getting "much higher." That was kind of his downfall, come to think of it. But this massive hit song by The Doors introduced a new generation to cannabis culture. The 4-minute organ solo was a bit too mellow to dance to, so you might as well toke up.
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - "You Don't Know How It Feels"
"But let me get to the point / Let's roll another joint" seems like as good a way as any to charm the pants off someone you like. Just look into those dreamy, glaucoma-free eyes! We want to know how it feels!
Led Zeppelin - "Going to California"
We mentioned earlier how a lot of these songs are either about love of marijuana or loss of marijuana. The first verse of this song is about how some lady smoked all the narrator's "stuff" and drank all their wine. This led to him "Going to California with an achin' in my heart."
Later Robert Plant starts singing about Gollum, Mordor and other stuff from Lord of the Rings, so just please ask before borrowing our weed, okay?
David Crosby - "Tamalpais High (At About 3)"
The name of David Crosby's solo debut in 1971 was If I Could Only Remember My Name. That's pretty high, if we do say so. The album features a number of notable hippies. This song, "Tamalpais," includes backing vocals from Jerry Garcia.
Steve Miller Band - "The Joker"
Steve Miller loaded up the lyrics to this song with references to his influences, like The Clovers' song "Lovey Dovey" or The Medallions' "The Letter" and marijuana. The lyric about people calling him "The Space Cowboy" is a reference to his own Brave New World album. So when he says he's a "midnight toker" over and over again in the chorus, believe him.
Grateful Dead - "Dark Star"
Just pick any Dead song, really. It'll work!
Traffic - "Light Up or Leave Me Alone"
This might be the biggest ever song about peer pressure, but hey, they just wanted you to get on their level.
The Beatles - "With A Little Help From My Friends"
Getting high alone is a sure sign that you have a problem, or a grow operation. In the latter case you've probably got plenty of friends, though.
This song has been covered countless times, and it's no mystery why: we can all relate to the lyrics of love, friendship, music and enjoying some of the good stuff!
Spinal Tap - "Listen to the Flower People"
"They're from England and don't let the name scare you; they're full of love."
So, whether you smoke pot or not, take some time today to thank cannabis for all it's contributed to rock and roll.
Graphic: Dempsey Murphy