These days every other song seems to be about marijuana or at least mention it. Hey, it’s legal in so many places now, what’s so cutting edge about that?
Way back in the early days of popular music, musicians had to be a bit more clever in their references about marijuana because it was illegal coast-to-coast (yes, even California).
Steve Miller openly sang about being “a toker” in “The Joker,” but didn’t mention what he was toking. Led Zeppelin mentioned in passing that a girl “smoked my stuff” in “Going to California,” but didn’t define “stuff.” But everyone knew what they were singing about.
Songs About Marijuana
As this list shows, some songs might employ linguistic subterfuge, but they clearly were about something other than romance. Still, people didn’t always get it. After reading this, you will.
“Puff The Magic Dragon,” Peter, Paul and Mary
Just kidding! This song is most definitely not about marijuana, as Peter, Paul and Mary have maintained for decades. It’s a simple song about the innocence of childhood. But the “puff” and “Little Jackie Paper” references – well, there’s no convincing some that this song isn’t really about weed. But it’s totally not.
“The Spinach Song,” Julia Lee
This one comes from the 1930s. Apparently, in those days, spinach was a code word for marijuana. “I didn’t like it the first time, but oh how it grew on me,” Lee sings. She’s not talking about eating her vegetables. It’s interesting to note that this also was about the time Popeye was invented. He ate spinach to get strong – and smoked a pipe. Just saying.
“Got To Get You Into My Life,” The Beatles
Paul McCarthy remains one of the most famous marijuana lovers in the world – or, at least, he was at the height of his fame as a Beatle. But “Got To Get You Into My Life” was one of his first, if subtle, musical forays into proclaiming that love. Like, literally. He told author Barry Miles for his book “Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now” that the song is “actually an ode to pot, like someone else might write an ode to chocolate or a good claret.”
It’s hard to imagine someone singing, “Did I tell you I need you every single day of my life?” about chocolate, but we get the picture.
“Along Comes Mary,” The Association
If you were paying attention, had even a mild interest in marijuana and saw the name “Mary” in a song, that was a sign. The Association released this single in the late 1960s, and few caught on to what it was really about. “Every time I think that I’m the only one who’s lonely, someone calls on me.” it’s Mary, and it’s not the girl next door.
Another of their well-known songs, “Windy,” also could be interpreted in many, ah, interesting ways. “Who’s reaching out to capture a moment?” Who, indeed.
“Pass the Kouchie,” The Mighty Diamonds
This song became famous because Musical Youth remade it. But the Mighty Diamonds recorded the original in 1982. But that Musical Youth remake made it sound so upbeat and fun that many people sort of missed the point that, yeah, they were talking about passing around a joint. On the left-hand side, as it turned out. The 1980s were a lot weirder than people think.
“Mary Jane,” Rick James
This might seem like a love song to a girl – but, of course, it’s not. In 1978, you could reference “Mary Jane” and not everyone knew immediately that you were talking about marijuana. James proclaims his love as strongly as McCartney: “She turns me on with her love and takes me to paradise.” The 1970s were exactly as weird as people think.
It’s quaint these days to consider the lengths artists went to conceal a song about marijuana. But you can’t help but admire their cleverness – no matter how obvious they were being, in retrospect.