Cannabis Culture: Top 5 Classic Stoner Songs

Music and marijuana is an archetypal combination. Not only did music shape the counter-culture generation in the 1960s and fuel a youth-based revolution, but it also brought people into harmony with their experiences and surroundings. Marijuana, in all of its rebellious glory, has a history of doing the same. Together, they are a perfect pairing, better than an aged-wine-and-cheese combination. There’s nothing quite as sweet as rolling a joint to a classic stoner song, humming and licking your lips, feeling a part of something bigger.

These top 5 classic stoner songs will hit you in the feels and have you reaching for your stash, with nostalgia in your heart and good vibes

Music and Marijuana
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in your soul.

1. Peter Tosh, “Legalize It”

If there is any indication of how big of an impact a song can make, it comes down to reception. When Peter Tosh released “Legalize It” in 1975, the song was banned in Jamaica, the country in which it was released. Thankfully for cannabis lovers everywhere, the attempts at censorship only led to worldwide attention and international fame. With very explicit references to marijuana, “Legalize It” was a direct call to action, with Tosh singing, “Legalize it / don’t criticize.” And there’s no doubt that he was talking about cannabis (“Some call it the weed / some call it marijuana / some of them call it ganja“).

The song was written as a direct response to an issue of victimization and brutality by Jamaican police over cannabis use. Tosh not only wanted the criminalization to stop but also called for reform, especially in the realm of medical marijuana.

One verse particularly stands out as a stoner anthem, since it brings attention to everyday use and the cultural hypocrisy of the time:

“Singers smoke it,
And players of instrument, too
Legalize it, yeah yeah
That’s the best thing you can do
Doctors smoke it
Nurses smoke it
Judges smoke it
Even lawyer, too.”

Now, this song can be blasted by every person (doctor, nurse, judge, lawyer) without prosecution (in several states), as they light up.

2. Bob Dylan, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”

“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” is a 1966 Bob Dylan masterpiece, made with careful layering, exciting instrumentals, and a call to smoking weed that just can’t be missed. The lyrics call out atrocities that lead to “stoning,” a reference to the violent act that readily appears in several chapters of the Bible. He croons, “Well, they’ll stone you when you’re trying to be so good / They’ll stone you just like they said they would / They’ll stone you when you’re trying to go home / And they’ll stone you when you’re there all alone.” He ends each stanza with a feverous cheer: “Everybody must get stoned!”

While Dylan’s words act as a symbol, calling out hypocrisy and fear and rules, they are also a very convincing form of motivation. With each “everybody must get stoned,” stoners are cheering, heated by the brassy jazz progression (there is a wild mix of drums, trombone, tuba, piano, tambourine, and bass, all thumping at once) and thrilled by the not-so-subtle embrace of marijuana. This track is celebratory, and listeners can feel the tone as they light up. After all, if Bob Dylan says it is what must be done, it is probably a good idea.

3. Tom Petty, “You Don’t Know How It Feels”

With his soft vocals, Tom Petty appeals to potheads everywhere as he croons, “But let me get to the point, let’s roll another joint” in his 1994 song “You Don’t Know How It Feels.” Mixing turbulent, relatable feelings with a head-nodding tune, Tom Petty makes smoking pot an appealing decision, supported by a memorable accordion and harmonica solo.

The song is appealing to audiences that face similar issues, especially those who turn to mind-altering substances either for relief or solidarity. He sang,

“People come, people go
Some grow young, some grow cold
I woke up in between
A memory and a dream,”

which transformed the song into a multi-dimensional anthem for listeners of all types.

At the time, many radio stations and MTV openly censored the single by removing the word “roll” from the classic line and distorting “joint” to be unrecognizable. It didn’t work, however, as Petty fans and stoners alike jammed in their basements, singing along and lighting up triumphantly.

4. Peter, Paul, & Mary, “Puff the Magic Dragon”

It has become common knowledge (whether or not Peter, Paul, & Mary intended it) that the 1963 song “Puff the Magic Dragon” is completely associated with marijuana. The rumor first started in a 1964 article in Newsweek, which opened many listeners’ eyes, namely through their ears.

“Puff the Magic Dragon” starts out as a pleasant story of a dragon: “Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea / and frolicked in the autumn mist / in a land called Honnah Lee,” seemingly living his best life. However, despite the simplicity of the tune, the song is deceptive. There are enough allusions to smoking weed that have led many to consider Puff a true symbol of cannabis culture.

The references are extremely convincing. Puff has a friend with the name “paper,” dragon sounds pretty similar to “draggin,” and “puff” is self-explanatory. In a very brief amount of time, the track references rolling papers, inhaling smoke through a drag, and taking a puff from a joint. The best part, however, might just be that these clues are hidden by a complete lack of context; “Puff the Magic Dragon” is disguised in a children’s costume, with a tune that is whimsical and a storyline that is elementary. Stoners have come to appreciate this, noting the song for its subtle brilliance, awarding listeners for paying attention.

5. Bob Marley & The Wailers, “Kaya”

Bob Marley Portrait Graffiti
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Bob Marley has made a name for himself as a cannabis icon, a blazing and huffing symbol for Rasta-loving stoners around the world. Marley’s 1978 song “Kaya” is one way he made an impact on the counter-culture.

Marley, to a pleasant, upbeat-yet-relaxed rhythm, calls out that he is in some need of some “kaya” on a rainy day. Kaya is marijuana, and Marley truly can’t get enough of it. He calls out for weed, singing:

“Got to have kaya now
Got to have kaya now
Got to have kaya now
For the rain is falling.”

What’s the reason? The rain is falling. Like most stoners, it does not take much for Marley to yearn for cannabis. It helps him wake up, loosen up, and feel amazing; so good, in fact, that he coos, “I’m so high, I even touch the sky / above the falling rain / I feel so good in my neighborhood, so / here I come again.” This track is relatable. Potheads resonate with this sound since they want to feel good as effortlessly as Marley projects through both his lyrics and the soul-soothing chimes of roots reggae. They feel the love, and want marijuana to follow.

Turn up the radio fast, but don’t light up too quick. With these five classic stoner jams, there’s no reason to rush or hurry. Enjoy the music, and slow your roll.

Article by: Savannah Nelson