Weed smokers understand that certain marijuana strains are capable of ‘expanding the mind.’ What this really means is that they are able to make mental connections they are incapable of when sober. Many of the great minds of our time have used a psychoactive substance of some kind, and the music industry is rife with individuals who use, and often abuse, narcotics.
The likes of Jim Morrison and David Bowie didn’t just ‘experiment’ with hard drugs, the drugs became a crucial part of their identity. I remember reading the biography of Anthony Kiedis, the lead singer of the Red-Hot Chili Peppers, entitled Scar Tissue, and marveled at how the frontman was still alive. To be fair, Kiedis doesn’t know either. He was a self-confessed ‘drug fiend,’ but it didn’t prevent him and his band from creating memorable music.
The next time you relax and listen to music with a joint in your hand, remember that the artist(s) you are listening to was probably high when creating it! In this guide, I look at five of the biggest stoners in music history.
#5 – Louis Armstrong
This entry may come as a shock to many. To be fair, Armstrong may not have been one of the all-time great stoner musicians, but the jazz wizard absolutely loved marijuana! Armstrong became famous way back in the 1920s and was one of the first African-Americans to become a ‘crossover’ star in the United States. Although the Marihuana Tax Act had yet to come into being, a significant number of states had banned the herb in Armstrong’s era.
He first tried marijuana in the 1920s and used it for the duration of his career by most accounts. He called it “the gage” and is known to have been high during recordings and even performances! Armstrong was arrested for using weed in California in 1930, and Satchmo spent nine days in an L.A. jail for his troubles. The short stint in prison only heightened his appreciation for the herb.
According to one famous story, in 1953 Vice President Richard Nixon met Armstrong and took the jazz legend’s suitcases with him because Nixon knew he didn’t have to travel through customs. Unbeknownst to him, Armstrong’s cases contained around three pounds of weed! In 1971, Armstrong told his biographers that he had to quit using marijuana despite its benefits, because of the risk of arrest; his wife Lucille was arrested for marijuana possession in 1954. In all probability, it was Louis’ ‘gage.’
#4 – Willie Nelson
This country music legend is another musician with a lifelong love of Mary Jane. He even has his own range called ‘Willie’s Reserve.’ There is a myriad of tales surrounding him and his obsession with the herb. For example, he is said to have run back into a burning building on one occasion just to grab his stash! Later, he explained that his primary goal was to prevent himself from prosecution in the event that firefighters found what was a full pound of a Colombian Sativa.
Even in his late eighties, Nelson continues to fight the good fight on behalf of weed lovers everywhere. He is the co-chair at NORML, which aims to legalize marijuana across the United States, and has the ultimate honor of having a cannabis strain named after him. The Willie Nelson strain is a bit like the man himself, uplifting and giving you a greater appreciation of music, and life in general.
#3 – Snoop Dogg
Calvin Cordozar Broadus Junior, better known as Snoop Dogg, is one of the music industry’s biggest advocates of cannabis. He has written several songs about the herb, including ‘Smoke Weed Everyday,’ and puts his money where his mouth is. Snoop recently teamed with Kevin Durant to form a new marijuana delivery service and plans to bring his weed company, Leafs By Snoop, to Canada.
He has been an active musician since 1992 and is estimated to have sold over 30 million albums worldwide. If you watch his videos, you’ll notice that in the majority of them, he smokes a joint! Snoop even recorded himself smoking a blunt on a field trip to the White House! It is fair to say that almost all of his music was created while high, although he doesn’t always get it right. His idea to change his name to Snoop Lion was just plain wrong; maybe he wasn’t high at the time!
#2 – Jerry Garcia
Jerry Garcia was the lead singer of the Grateful Dead, a group that wasn’t just a band, it was an entire movement, and Jerry was obviously the leader. He died at the relatively young age of 53 but his memory lives on in his music, and his love of the herb. To give you an idea of how popular the Grateful Dead were, they had an entire segment of their fanbase called the ‘dead heads’, who devoted their lives to following the band from city to city!
When the lights at a Grateful Dead show went down, the entire audience lit up their joints. It was common practice to get utterly stoned at one of their concerts as the band played tracks that lasted up to 45 minutes. Garcia believed that marijuana gave him a greater ability to explore all the possible music avenues provided by the guitar. When he died in 1995, the marijuana community mourned because it had lost arguably its most prominent member at that time.
#1 – Bob Marley
It takes someone special to usurp Jerry Garcia in the greatest stoner musician stakes, but Bob Marley more than deserves the mantle. One of the most iconic images of the great man depicts him enjoying one of his favorite pastimes, smoking a fat joint. Unlike the other members of this list who used weed for relaxation and to aid their creative process, Marley used it because he was a member of the Rastafarian religion, which states that ‘ganja’ is a holy sacrament.
Rastas do NOT use marijuana for recreational purposes. Instead, it is a sacred herb used for medicinal and religious purposes. Marley became a Rastafarian in the mid-1960s, long before he became a reggae superstar. As was the way of his religion, Marley never used the herb ‘recreationally.’ Like a devout Rasta, he saw it as a holy rite in the same way that Catholics see Holy Communion.
It is likely that Marley was high a significant amount of the time he was creating and recording music. He promoted peace and cultural understanding in the 1970s and was the best possible representative of the marijuana movement. Sadly, he died in 1981 at the tragically young age of 36, but his memory will live on forever.
Final Thoughts on Weed and Musicians
While it is unquestionably possible to create great music without the need for psychoactive drugs, there is no doubt that many of the greats in the industry were high during their respective creative processes. Other legendary stoners in music that are not on this list include Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd and the Beatles. There are also innumerable musicians that used marijuana but only as part of a cocktail of drugs, such as Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, and Black Sabbath.