If the 1990s produced the most-abundant canon of cannabis-themed classics, the 1970s deserves credit as the decade that first took the tunes to the masses. This is the decade of Marley, Sabbath, Tosh and a solo Beatle getting "Hi Hi Hi," and the fun kicked off in 1970 when a confused television program featured a cannabis-themed song that the host hailed as a modern gospel spiritual. For these decade lists, PRØHBTD purposely avoided terms like "best" and "biggest" since the selection process emphasized criteria like breakthroughs, mainstream reach, influence and underground gems, but most of the songs below were huge hits. As befits the decade, these songs are best enjoy with pre-rolls by Heavy Grass.
1979 - Hank Williams, Jr. - "Family Tradition"
Junior's politics might not be the most enlightened these days, but he set out to forge his own identity separate from his father with Family Tradition. The popular title track pays tribute to his rebellious ways, which include rollin' smokes and getting stoned.
1978 - Bob Marley - "Kaya"
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.
1977 - Hawkwind - "Hassan I Sabbah"
The California drought of 1977 was great for skateboarding but not so much for cannabis. In one of the driest years for cannabis-themed music, British space-rockers Hawkwind unleashed "Hassan I Sabbah." Steeped in Middle Eastern influence, the song references the 11th-century Persian who founded the Hashshashin, which translates to "users of hashish" and from which came the term "assassin." Likewise, an album reissue included the bonus track "Hash Cake Cut." Hawkwind aside, The Eagles refer to the "warm smell of colitas rising up through the air" in "Hotel California," KROQ radio in Los Angeles aired the "Marijuana Anthem" that year, and Dillard Hartford Dillard nearly took the year with the humorous "Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown."
1976 - 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. (PRØHBTD profiled his son Tosh1 here, who was beaten into a coma while in jail for a non-violent cannabis offense.)
1975 - Neil Young - "Roll Another Number (For the Road)"
Neil Young rocked Woodstock, so he gets the nod over a song also deserving recognition: Prog-rockers STYX unloaded lots of cannabis slang on the less-recognized stoner track "Light Up."
1974 - George McCrea - "I Get Lifted"
Music critics often suggest KC and the Sunshine Band made a subtle nod to cannabis with "I Get Lifted," but TK Records labelmate George McCrae recorded the original version a year earlier. The West Palm Beach singer had all the attention on another song, "Rock Your Baby," when Harry "KC" Casey from nearby Miami-Dade heard "I Get Lifted" and turned it into a hit by speeding up the arrangement.
1973 - New Riders of the Purple Sage - "Panama Red"
Phil Lesh and Jerry Garcia are among the Grateful Dead members who formed this country rock band in 1969, and their song "Panama Red" references the old-school sativa strain that originated in Central America.
1972 - Paul McCartney - "Hi, Hi, Hi"
Paul McCartney won the year with an anthem the U.K. originally banned, but it's not the only cannabis song that involved a solo Beatle. That same year, John Lennon produced and provided background vocals for the David Peel rarity "The Pope Smokes Dope."
1971 - Black Sabbath - "Sweet Leaf"
Black Sabbath opened 1971's Master of Reality on a high note with metal's original cannabis anthem. Adding to its coolness, "Sweet Leaf" starts with a cough from guitarist Tony Iommi after taking a pull from a joint he and Ozzy were sharing. You can't top Sabbath, but Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen did claim one of the first cannabis heartbreakers with "Seeds & Stems (Again)."
1970 - Brewer & Shipley - "One Toke Over the Line"
The folk duo landed a 1970 hit with the catchiest song ever to pair "toke" and "sweet Jesus" in the same line, but what immortalized it was a hilarious focus on "Jesus" instead of "toke." In 1971, Gail Farrell and Dick Dale performed the song on the Lawrence Welk Show, after which the host hailed it as "a modern spiritual." Richard Nixon, on the other hand, called Brewer & Shipley "public miscreants," and Vice President Spiro Agnew described them as "subversive to American youth." Fittingly, the song appears in both the book and movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.