Top 10 Pot Songs
Judging from the lyrics of these famous pot songs, marijuana has been part of the lifestyle and creative processes for some of rock’s most famous stars for a long time now. It seems pretty clear that artists like Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Aerosmith didn’t wait for the recent wave of reefer-friendly legalization in states across America to take effect before drawing inspiration from lighting up. Come to think of it, legalization may ironically wind up diminishing some of the romantic appeal of writing songs about pot, so before that prospect turns into a real downer, why don’t you join us as we celebrate the Top 10 Pot Songs.
’Reefer Head Woman’
The first hit from our list of Top 10 Pot Songs comes courtesy of a band better known for indulging in slightly harder drugs in their day. Certainly that was the case around the time they were recording ‘Reefer Head Woman’ for 1979’s ‘Night in the Ruts’ LP. Of course, the members of Aerosmith would soon go teetotal — giving new meaning to the phrase “binge and purge.”
‘Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam’
You don’t have to be a music nerd to know that Age of Aquarius ambassadors Steppenwolf definitely knew a thing or two about euphoric chemicals and their kaleidoscopic effect on music listeners. And yet, John Kay and company didn’t tackle herbal benefits, specifically, until their sophomore album, and its very groovy, thinly veiled guide to pot etiquette ‘Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam.’ (Stay tuned until the closing bust, maaan!)
‘Going to California’
Now, Led Zeppelin were always far more subtle in their musical drug references -- although behind the scenes, they allegedly indulged as much as anyone. The wistful ‘Going to California’ is a perfect example. Here, both the song’s protagonist and the band’s backing melodies seem to waver drastically between chilled out bliss and understandable paranoia — and it all begins with the woman unkind who smoked his stuff and drank all his wine. Damn that woman!
‘Don’t Bogart Me’
This absolute classic (co-penned by founding Mother of Invention, Elliot Ingber) first appeared on Fraternity of Man’s eponymous debut in 1968, but would gain mainstream renown the following year, when it was included in the counterculture zeitgeist-capturing road movie, ‘Easy Rider,’ and its influential soundtrack. So yeah, it’s laid-back swing is more country rock than classic rock, but what would our list of pot songs be without it?
‘You Don’t Know How it Feels’
Few ‘70s classic rock artists navigated the choppy waters of fast-changing musical trends throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s as competently as Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers. In 1994, with flannel-toting grunge fiends torturing themselves (and listeners) with deep existential conundrums all around him, Petty knocked out another career standard, harking back to rock’s simpler concerns of yesteryear — namely, rolling another joint.
Little Feat leader Lowell George poetically articulated the lengths to which he’d go to get himself some “weed, whites and wine” on this, his terminally underrated band’s best known song. Too bad not enough music buyers paid enough attention to make ‘Willin’’ the monster hit it should have been, perhaps because its bittersweet melodies disguised the “wink-wink” wordplay at hand with their sheer beauty.
The next timeless toke tune our list of pot songs raced all the way to the top of the charts in numerous countries, thus proving certain subjects (love, war, and, err, marijuana) transcend all boundaries, both national and linguistic. Oh, and humor, since Steve Miller's ‘The Joker’ has obviously been launching listeners into uncontrolled bouts of giggling for the past four decades, and will surely continue to do so for many more.
While some artists on this list at least tried to camouflage their ganja references behind amusing or elliptical lyrics, the men in Black Sabbath felt no qualms about declaring their love of the ‘Sweet Leaf,’ with amplifiers turned up to eleven! In doing so, this anthem in particular, and the colossally down-tuned ‘Master of Reality’ album as a whole, became the definitive cornerstone of the movement known as stoner rock.
‘(Roll Another Number) For the Road’
Our man Neil put in an Oscar-worthy performance as the convincingly stoned protagonist of this chuckle-inducing favorite from the otherwise somber ‘Tonight’s the Night’ album. Yes, the album may have focused primarily on addressing the dispiriting comedown of the ‘70s, following the liberating promises of the ‘60s, but with this song, at least, Young reminded listeners that a little smoke could still offer some means of escape from cold, harsh reality.
‘Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35’
With his animated demands that “everybody MUST get stoned,” Bob Dylan simultaneously alienated much of his conservative folk music audience and instantly bonded with scores more rock music fans, on this opening number from 1966’s creative “line-in-the-sand,” ‘Blonde on Blonde.’ Heck, is it any wonder Bob never (or rarely ever) looked back? We don’t think so. In fact, we think you’ll agree that ‘Rainy Day Women No. 12 and 35’ sends off our list of Top 10 Pot Songs on a definite high.