REWIND: 4/20 songs about pot, from 1932 to 2000

Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward

Black Sabbath (Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward) in 19970. Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage.

Does it make me, a sober person, a hypocrite to write a 4/20 column? No. It’s not my fault all the best music is either about or made by people on pot. I’m not saying there’s a connection there, it could just be culture, but the correlation is strong.

Plus, what else was I going to write about? I haven’t heard all 130 tracks of Taylor Swift’s new album(s) yet so I can’t write about that. Even if I did I understand, she wasn’t polite enough to add an interlude of Willie Nelson recommendations as an easy hook. It’s like you never even consider my needs, Taylor!

Anyway, here’s some songs about weed. You have more time to read this since they canceled the Hippie Hill gathering this year.

Cab Calloway — “Reefer Man”

This column is called Rewind, right? Well let’s rewind all the way back, nearly a century.

I tried to think of the oldest marijuana-related song I could think of and I’m not sure I can do better than 1932. I checked and marijuana wasn’t even illegal yet when this came out! That would come in 1937, for reasons I haven’t researched but I can only assume are racist. It’s always a safe bet, that major and far-reaching changes to policy came from racism. [Gokhman note: Did you know the U.S. government started calling pot marijuana to make it sound “Mexican,” connecting it to the fear of the “other?” It’s a thing! There’s been a movement to refer to it as cannabis to cut some of that racism out].

And yes, I did just use a Cab Calloway song last month when I was in Baltimore. That’s why I remembered this one; it was one of the potentials before I just gave in and used the “Blues Brothers” scene.

Rosetta Howard — “If You’re A Viper”

I promise all of these won’t be from the ’30s! In my effort to not just have a lot of Willie Nelson and Snoop, I kind of made 40 percent of my list pre-World War II. But here we are and I’m not changing it.

This one’s from 1937, the year pot was made illegal. Apparently “viper” was slang for pot smoker back then, which seems… wrong. Is there something I don’t know about either vipers or stoners? Were they notoriously snakelike back then? Hit me up, historians, I need to know about this.

Black Sabbath — “Sweet Leaf”

There, we’re done with jazz. Happy?

The Beatles famously inspired like half the genres of modern music by releasing weird songs that people copied until it became a style unto itself. “Helter Skelter” was basically a metal song, for example, and “Eleanor Rigby” was prog rock. But Black Sabbath is right up there with them.

In addition to being one of the first true metal bands, they also planted the seeds of doom metal. And “Sweet Leaf” specifically? Early stoner rock. Plus, according to Billy Corgan, it’s somehow the basis of the Smashing Pumpkins’ style. I don’t see it but who am I to argue.

Weezer — “Hash Pipe”

As the story goes, Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo doesn’t actually smoke much pot and didn’t at the time. In true nerd style, he was taking Ritalin. But, I mean come on, the song is called “Hash Pipe” so it absolutely counts.

Also, being me, I had to get a ’90s song in here. Apparently it makes me cool! The ’90s are back! I recently found out that, rather than just wearing a T-shirt with an old band’s logo like most youths did when I was one of them, kids actually listen to and appreciate real grunge music. It warms my heart.

I, of course, did listen to the old bands whose shirts I wore. I mean… my first two entries were from before when my grandparents were kids. I love old music.

Dr. Dre — “The Next Episode”

While Snoop is on this track, it’s not explicitly his song, which means I made it all the way through without him, Willie Nelson or Sublime. That deserves a pat on the back. The temptation was strong, but I try to avoid the most obvious songs.

Back when I worked for a hedge-fund-owned print newspaper, they sent around a hype video for their new web site content management system (CMS). If that doesn’t sound lame enough, it was set to the intro to “The Next Episode,” though obviously didn’t include any of the, you know, words. In an effort to help them out, a colleague and I re-edited it to be the end of the song rather than the beginning, so the final “smoke weed everyday” line hit just as the company logo came on the screen.

They never found out who made it and sent it around, and now I don’t care because they laid me off in 2016. You can’t fire me twice!

Follow publisher Daniel J. Willis and send column ideas to him at on BlueSky.

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