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Marijuana and Music in the 20th Century

Marijuana and Music in the 20th Century

Marijuana has been a part of music history for as long as anyone can remember. It opens up the mind in new ways, allows us to listen differently, and gives musicians the opportunity to go beyond theory and technique into what’s almost a new dimension of creativity. Years ago, Cannabis Culture published a four-part history of marijuana and music in the 20th century. We stumbled upon it recently and thought it was so fascinating, you might like a highlights reel.

Of course, we have to encourage you to check out the full series at You can start with part one of the series here.

Writer Russell Cronin starts with the jazz era, which took place in the early 1900’s. The most highly-regarded jazz musicians, including Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie, had improvised under the influence for 40 or 50 years. That’s what made them jazz musicians, according to a pharmacologist at the time – “they could jazz things up, liven them up.” Before he was known as the politician and activist, Malcolm X sold reefer to these guys.

After the jazz era, artists like the Beatles and Bob Dylan used cannabis to influence their music, and encouraged listeners to partake in order to better understand the message. John Lennon said that by the mid-1960’s, “The Beatles had gone beyond comprehension. We were smoking marijuana for breakfast. We were well into marijuana and nobody could communicate with us, because we were just glazed eyes, giggling all the time.”

Of course we know about the hippie era, rastafarianism, reggae, and progressive rock along the lines of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. We know about Janis Joplin and Bob Marley, and about Neil Young and the Grateful Dead. Eventually, progressive rock saw the boom of cocaine, and marijuana took a backseat to harder drugs in greater amounts.

Stay tuned for what’s next, and in the meantime, check out parts one and two of the Cannabis Culture series!

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