Bob Marley would have turned 73 years old today. The reggae icon and cannabis advocate passed away in 1981 from skin melanoma, which is a form of cancer that many researchers now think topical cannabinoids might help treat. Hopefully the medical marijuana revolution can help save future Hall of Fame greats, but in the meantime, celebrate Marley's life and advocacy with these 11 reggae anthems about cannabis.
Toots and The Maytals - "54-46 Was My Number"
This iconic ska song, a follow-up to the group's hit “54-46 (That’s My Number),” describes Toots Hibbert's arrest for cannabis possession in 1966 and celebrates his eventual release. Fun fact: Many consider Toots' 1968 song "Do the Reggay" as the origin of the term reggae.
Hempress Sativa - "Twisted Sheets"
We put "Hempress Sativa" into an online program that analyzes what your name says about you, and it concluded that the rising reggae star is "kind and peaceful." That's a fitting description for an artist who's out-advocating her peers on the cannabis tip.
Bunny & Ricky - "Bushweed Corntrash"
We've all had dry spells where we can’t find any quality cannabis—or in other words, the only thing available from the local dealer was “bushweed corntrash.” Have you had a dry spell bad enough to inspire a song? Reggae duo Bunny & Ricky apparently did, but with legalization spreading, you can celebrate that most dry spells are a thing of the past.
Linval Thompson - "I Love Marijuana"
One of the more transparent songs to come out of Reagan's last year in office, “I Love Marijuana” is an ode to all things cannabis. The film EuroTrip featured the song, and Wiz Khalifa sampled it.
Black Uhuru - "Sinsemilla"
Musically, reggae artists held down the fort for cannabis in the 1980s, and Black Uhuru kicked off the decade with "Sinsemilla," the title track from their third album. Black Uhuru went on to win the first-ever Grammy for Best Reggae Album in 1985.
Musical Youth - "Pass the Dutchie"
Michael Jackson and Prince dominated MTV in the mid-'80s, but the first black group in regular rotation at MTV was Musical Youth. The British reggae act topped the U.K. charts with "Pass the Dutchie," a mashup of the Mighty Diamonds' "Pass the Koutchie" and U Brown's "Gimmie the Music."
The Toyes - "Smoke Two Joints"
Most young people know the 1992 Sublime cover, but the original "Smoke Two Joints" belongs to The Toyes. The classic reggae group, which hails from Oregon, released several cannabis anthems over the years, including "Hey Uncle Sam (Leave Us Pot Smokers Alone)" and "Green Doctor."
Peter Tosh - "Legalize It"
Peter Tosh, a member of the Marley-led Wailers, broke out on his own in 1976 with Legalize It. The title track promoted cannabis legalization and condemned the police crackdown. Jamaica attempted to prohibit the song from airplay, but it became Tosh's signature tune.
Rita Marley - "One Draw"
"One Draw," written by her hubby Bob, is one of the first cannabis anthems ever recorded by a female reggae artist. As she sings in the opening line, "I wanna get high, so high!"
Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley and Stephen Marley - "Medication"
Cannabis-themed songs continue to multiply like states that legalized, but Marley's sons get the nod for crafting a hit song that highlights the plant's contribution to health and wellness.
Bob Marley - "Kaya"
Naturally we can't leave Bob out on his own birthday. Kaya, the follow-up to Exodus (with tracks recorded in the same sessions), is a tribute to love and cannabis, and the title track sets the tone with, "I'm so high, I even touch the sky." The term kaya can mean "home" and "restful place," among other translations, which suggests the song is about more than just cannabis.