An era is ending right before our eyes. Musicians, fans, activists, artists, hippies, and other trailblazers are approaching their last toke over the line. Some of the best music composed and performed in history came during a period where the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, presidential assassinations, the free love movement, and moon landings were all in full swing. What a crazy and exciting time to have lived.
Although this is a political blog, the music that came out of the 60’s and 70’s was so important that it WAS a part of the political discussion at the time. Everyone from Dylan, to The Byrds, to The Stones, to The Dead, to Hendrix, to The Who, and the thousands of other artists of the day, all could be considered modern-day pioneers of individual liberty, personal freedom, peace, and even for some, marijuana advocacy.
The marriage of music and cannabis goes back further than the 60’s and 70’s obviously. But during such a contentious and uncertain time, it was especially important for the public tokers of the day to take their stand and exert their expression that marijuana was (and still is) completely benign when placed next to every other vice, drug, or substance. In most cases, many of the artists we know wouldn’t be who they are without some sort of run-in with marijuana (whether they partook regularly or not). For instance, David Bowie’s successful career was helped launched by a chance encounter with a neighbor who explored tincture and hashish with Bowie as he wrote and promoted “Space Oddity” – his first #1 pop single on the UK charts.
A lot of people were smoking back then, some more vocal than others. Almost any big band or artist you can think of from that era used cannabis at some point in their career during the songwriting-recording-performance process of music creation. Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Sly & The Family Stone, The Beatles, Cream, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, The Velvet Underground, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Van Morrison, Tom Petty, Steppenwolf, Neil Young, the list goes on and on.
These artists all accomplished (intentionally or not) the ability to openly consume and discuss cannabis – regardless of the draconian drug laws in place at the time. Once a hole was opened up in the dam of unjust laws, the process evolved and developed to a point where we now see record support for cannabis, and 23 states with legalized cannabis use (four of which have legalized the recreational use of the plant). A pretty clear example of the enduring battle that must be waged for policy to catch up to public opinion and common sense. I’m not saying that musicians from the 60’s and 70’s are the direct cause of the legalization effort. But pop culture does play a sizable role in public perception and the transmission of views and opinions.
Now that we’ve lost David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson, Levon Helm, Ray Manzarek, JJ Cale, Lou Reed, Jack Bruce, Joe Cocker, BB King, George Martin, and countless others, it’s becoming painfully real that this chapter in history is coming to a close. Their legacies, music, and influence will live on thanks to the archival use of the internet, but that tender void will always be there. We can’t thank these individuals enough for their contributions to music, art, politics, and the continuing acceptance of marijuana not only as a creative booster, but now as a legitimate medicine to treat a variety of illnesses.
Now, “everybody must get stoned!”
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