What’s better than a good playlist when you’re smoking with some friends?
Whether the vibe is heavy-metal, reggae, or hip-hop, music has been an enormous part of cannabis culture nearly since its inception! Here are a few spotlights on music and weed, whether on purpose or by accident
Musicians that Smoke
Just how many famous artists and musicians from the past and present have smoked weed? The list goes on and on: Bob Marley, Willie Nelson, Louis Armstrong, Snoop Dogg, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and so on.
Another great musician to comment on weed, Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel) has this to say. “I’ve made music high and sober. Cannabis won’t give you anything you don’t already have, but it might (or might not) help you get it out.”
“When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself,” quoted Bob Marley.
There’s not a clear path for how cannabis affects one’s creativity. It looks like talent and practice are still the keys to making a song a banger.
“I never have and never will write a drug song,” Bob Dylan famously declared during his legendary performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall in May 1966. That hasn’t stopped several generations of cannabis smokers from adopting the lead track from Blonde on Blonde, Rainy Day Women #12 and 35.
A strong reason for its popularity with this audience is the song’s hazy chorus, “Everybody must get stoned!”
The Mighty Zimm, on the other hand, maintains that the stoning in question was Biblical rather than herbal. In 2012, he told Rolling Stone, “It doesn’t surprise me that some people would take it that way.” “However, they are folks who are unfamiliar with Acts.”
Maybe Bob Dylan’s work isn’t a specific weed reference, but the 60-year songwriting career has enough pop and influence that might have stuck with the counterculture crowd growing amidst cannabis users.
Jazz and Marijuana
In the 1920s, cannabis cigarettes were widely available in jazz clubs across the United States, having arrived via the ports of New Orleans, the renowned jazz capital of the world. The term “jazz cigarettes” as a generic word for a joint has outlived its usefulness, as has the overall relationship between cannabis and jazz music.
Weed’s time-stretching psychotropic effects significantly impact how jazz is heard and how it’s played. Slower note intervals allowed stoned musicians to add wild, improvised embellishments to the song as it was written. As a result, cannabis was essential to the concept of “jazzing” something up.
Miles Davis, a well-known marijuana user, is possibly the greatest jazz artist of all time. We’ll have some of what he was having!
Reggae is maybe the most closely associated genre with cannabis. The music style was born in the late 1960s in Jamaica and was closely related to the island’s Rastafarian religion, which considers cannabis to be a sacred sacrament. In the 1970s, Jamaica’s music became a prized cultural export, and cannabis and reggae became inextricably intertwined in the outside world.
For decades, Bob Marley’s beatific face, with a cloud rising from his mouth, has covered numerous dorm room walls as an instantly recognizable image of cannabis optimism. Peter Tosh, a member of Bob Marley’s band, popularized the idea of cannabis legalization in no uncertain terms with his 1976 single “Legalize It,” which debuted at the bottom of the Billboard 200 list and has since become a cult classic in the 40-year march to true legalization.
Rock & Roll
The acceptance of psychedelics by 60s rock and roll performers helped to normalize marijuana use among the general public. While images of marijuana in film and television were either rare or reactive, the ever-expanding sounds of progressively far-out popular musicians sparked marijuana curiosity in the people, and 1966 may have been the year the dope dam broke.
Within a few months, audiences not only heard Bob Dylan openly reference cannabis but also delved into all-encompassing songs designed by and for pot smokers, such as The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and The Beatles’ Revolver. (Fun fact: Paul McCartney has later claimed that even a seemingly harmless song like “Got to Get You Into My Life” is a love song to cannabis.)
Since the 1990s, popular music has steadily shifted from rock to hip hop, and the majority of cannabis depiction in popular culture has followed suit. It’s no surprise that rappers have become the dominating face of marijuana, given that the genre grew to prominence during the period of the music video. (According to a 2018 survey, smoking or vaping appears in half of all rap videos.)
Afroman ‘Because I Got High,’ his 2000 hit, is the perfect weed hymn. Nearly two decades after his global blockbuster, the now 46-year-old Afroman is still dabbling in music, with a new indie label, Cosmic Wire, aiming to contribute more funk and soul music. At the very least, he didn’t stop playing music because he was inebriated.
If you’ve been binge-watching That’s ’70s Show, you’ll recognize Chong as Leo, the mellowed-out hippy dude who helps Eric (Topher Grace) and the crew on occasion. If you’re a stoner movie fan, you’ll recognize Chong as one half of Cheech & Chong, the renowned ’70s comedy duo that adored all things weed-related, whether it was through their massively popular movies or musical comedy records.
Tommy Chong has also turned into a cannabis campaigner. The now 82-year-old is doing everything he can to have marijuana legalized across the United States, speaking at marches, serving on the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and even contributing to Cannabis Culture magazine on a regular basis. Tommy Chong is in charge of everything.
What Does the Science Say?
Dr. Alice Weaver Flaherty is a professor at Harvard Medical School and a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. She focuses on deep brain stimulation and the relationship between the brain and creativity.
Dr. Flaherty explains, “Marijuana is a stimulant.” “And most stimulants, at least in the short term, boost all kinds of production, including creativity.”
“Someone who is attempting to improve their motivation to be creative often goes too far and becomes completely wired, making it impossible for them to concentrate.”
“Cannabis may be beneficial to a really worried creative person,” she explains. “It might improve their creativity by calming them down. However, for someone who is already in the zone and isn’t too eager to work, it may push them into being too relaxed.”
Looking at it all, it appears that cannabis can help you tap into the creativity that already exists within you. Much like alcohol, it can also either make you too high-strung or too laid-back to create efficiently, depending on your baseline temperament and how much you ingest.
Pot isn’t a songwriting shortcut or a musician’s life hack. Whether or not cannabis is present, it appears that hard effort and practice are what drive the train.
So put that playlist on blast, grab a couple of friends, and set up a smoke session to get the creative juices buzzing!