Monday, December 2, 2019

"La Cucaracha" Was a Female Mexican Soldier

Most of us know the tune as one sung by Pancho Villa's soldiers:

La cucaracha, la cucaracha
ya no puede caminar
por que no tiene, porque le faltan 

marijuana que fumar

The cockroach, the cockroach
Cannot walk anymore
Because she hasn’t, because she lacks
marijuana to smoke


See a 13-year-old Judy Garland singing about "La Cucaracha" and marijuana in 1935:




La cucaracha was a nickname for a female Mexican soldier, and legend has it that "marijuana" too was named for such a woman, since they were also called juanas.

Sheet music dated  January 1918, from Antonio
Vanegas Arroyo Print shop in Mexico City
 
According to the book Soldaderas in the Mexican Military: Myth and History by Elizabeth Salas, soldiering has been a "traditional life experience for innumerable women in Mexico" since pre-Columbia times. "Women warriors, camp followers, coronelas, soldaderas, and Adelitas are just some of the names given to these women,” she writes. A footnote adds that Juanas and cucarachas were other names applied to women in the Mexican military, along with mociuaquetzque (valiant women), viejas (old ladies) and galletas (cookies).

Salas says "La cucaracha" is a corrido (Mexican folk song) that has its roots in nineteenth century Spain. Later, soldiers in Porfirio Diaz's army sang about "La cucaracha" to mock a soldadera that wanted money to go to the bullfights. "With the Villistas, 'La cucaracha' wanted money for alcohol and marijuana," writes Salas. "She was often so drunk or stoned that she could not walk straight."


Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Top 10 Rock & Reggae Marijuana Songs By Women


1. White Rabbit - Grace Slick
The bolero-inspired 60's anthem penned by Grace Slick brings back Alice in Wonderland with the lyric, "Tell 'em a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given you the call." The Great Society first recorded it with Grace's powerful vocals in November 1965, a year before the Jefferson Airplane version (also with Grace) hit the charts big time.



2.  Mary Jane - Janis Joplin
Slick's fellow rock goddess Janis Joplin wrote the blues-inspired "Mary Jane" and sang it in the style of her idol Bessie Smith. The song laments the high cost of pot: "When I bring home my hard earned pay / I spend my money all on Mary Jane." Sadly for Janis, heroin and Jack Daniels were cheaper.




3. Stoned Soul Picnic - Laura Nyro
Prolific songwriter and pot-smoker Laura Nyro penned this classic in 1968. It became a hit for The 5th Dimension and was also recorded by Barbra Streisand. "Let's not rush it, we'll take it slow."



4. One Draw - Rita Marley
Rita Marley's 1981 song remains avant garde even today: it features schoolchildren telling their teacher about smoking ganga on summer vacation. "Hey Rastaman, hey what you say / Give me some of your sensi."



5. Right Hand Man - Joan Osborne 
From Osborne's 1995 debut album Relish, which won multiple Grammy nominations, including best song for "One of Us" (parodied by Bob Rivers as, "What if God Smoked Cannabis.") "The sinsemilla salesman  / The cops on the block / They know what I been doin' / They see the way I walk."




6. If It Makes You Happy - Sheryl Crow 
This title track from Crow's 1996 album won Best Female Rock Vocal Performance at the 1997 Grammy Awards. “OK, I still get stoned / I’m not the kind of girl you take home.” Crow recently said at a concert that vinyl and weed would save the recording industry.




6. Legalise Me - Chrissie Hynde
This 1999 anthem by the righteous Ms. Hynde rocks out with Jeff Beck on guitar. "I'm just a farmer and I grow marijuana."




7. Stoned - Macy Gray 
In her uniquely wonderful voice, Gray produced a video where she smokes and watches Very Important Potheads on TV for this trippy 2014 track.



8. Flava - Megan Trainor / Tenelle - Flava 
Written by Megan "All About The Bass" Trainor and recorded in 2013 by Samoan/American singer-songwriter Tenelle, "Flava" celebrates marijuana's various strains. "I can take a taste of the Sour D / but you wake me up from that Blue Dream..."



9. New America - Halsey (2015)
"We are the New Americana / high on legal marijuana." The video is about witch burning, which shows Halsey gets it.




10. Faded by Design - Melissa Etheridge
"The legalization of plant medicine is ushering in a whole new era of understanding. 'Faded by Design' is a song celebrating that change," Etheridge told Rolling Stone.  "Don't call the doctor / the cure is in my mind."


HONORABLE MENTIONS

Sinsemilla - Joss Stone
Sinsemilla / Sending me love

Higher - Hirie 
"White smoke fills the air / you know I love the way you take me there."

High By the Beach - Lana Del Rey
This music video has 108 million YouTube views.

Rihanna - James Joint
"I'd rather be smoking weed / whenever we breathe."

I Love You More - Sarah Silverman 
"I love you more than my after-show monster bong hit."

You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome - Madeline Peroux
Cover of a Bob Dylan song I always thought was about pot. And don't get me started on those Rainy Day women.

What's Up - 4 Non Blondes (1991)
"And so I wake in the morning and I step outside and I take a deep breath and I get real high." This video, with dreadlocked leadsinger Linda Perry, comes in at 774 million views.

Pass That Dutch - Missy Elliott (2003)
"Come on, pass the dutch, baby! / Shake-shake shake ya stuff, ladies!"

Addicted - Amy Winehouse (2006)
"When you smoke all my weed man / You gots to call the green man."

"Why'd ya do it, she said, why'd you let that trash
Get a hold of your cock, get stoned on my hash?"

Dooo It - Miley Cyrus (2015)
"Feel like I am part of the universe / And it's part of me."

Lady Gaga - A-Yo (2016)
I don't really get it, but it has 22 million YouTube views.

Smoke the Weed - Sister Carol (2017)
From her weed-inspired CD, The Healing Cure.

Ooh LaLaLA - Hempress Sativa
The Real Thing

Dance Real Close - Jessie Payo (2019)
I first saw Payo perform this hauntingly beautiful tune as a busker in the 2019 movie The Last Laugh, in which Andie McDowell turns Chevy Chase onto pot, and shrooms. "Nobody's perfect / I know that I'm high as a kite."

Also see: Top 10 Marijuana Jazz Songs by Women 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Top 10 Marijuana Jazz Tunes by Women



 

 1. Gimmie a Reefer
Seminal blues singer Besse Smith was "a living symbol of personal freedom" and "smoked 'reefers' throughout her career." (Buzzy Jackson, A Bad Woman Feeling Good.) In 1933 she recorded the Kid Wilson song "Gimme a Pigfoot" and in the last verse she belts out, "Gimme a Reefer," as only Bessie could.



2. Sweet Marihuana
Written by Arthur Johnston and Sam Conslow, this classic was originally sung by Gertrude Michael in the 1934 movie "Murder at the Vanities" in an elaborate dance number. Later, the lyric was often changed to "Sweet Lotus Blossom," (Julia Lee recorded it both ways in the 40s). The original lyric was brought back in the 1970s by Bette Midler, accompanied by her music director Barry Manilow on piano. She recorded it on her "Songs for a New Depression" album and performed it during her 1999 Divine Miss Millenium tour.



3. When I Get Low, I Get High
Written by vaudevillian actress and songwriter Marion Sunshine, this song was recorded in 1936 by Ella Fitzgerald, whose musical phrasing on the song's title alone is a knockout (as is all of Ella's singing). A music video cover of the song by The Speakeasy Three wearing shimmering green gowns has 15 million YouTube views.



4. Why Don't You Do Right?
Originally recorded as "Weed Smoker's Dream" in 1936 by the Harlem Hamfats, the original lyrics are about a man enjoining his girlfriend to sell weed. It was recorded by the sultry soprano Lil Green in 1941, and brought success to Peggy Lee when she sang it in the 1943 film "Stage Door Canteen," in an arrangement by Very Important Pothead Benny Goodman. The song was sung by Amy Irving as Jessica Rabbit in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," and Lana Del Rey covered it during her Endless Summer Tour.




5. Roll 'em
Jazz composer and Tokin' Woman Mary Lou Williams wrote this tune for Goodman's 1937 album "When Buddha Smiles." Williams "found marijuana calming, useful for reflecting and relaxing at times" and liked to smoke backstage with Billie Holiday.




6. If You're a Viper
This Stuff Smith song made famous by Fats Waller in 1943 was recorded by blues singer Rosetta Howard with the Hamfats in 1937. A "viper" was slang for a marijuana smoker, as chronicled by VIP Mezz Mezzrow in Really the Blues.




7. Jack I'm Mellow
Blues singer and actress Trixie Smith recorded this Gundy & House tune in 1938 with Sidney Bechet on soprano sax. Smith also recorded under the name Trixie Smith and her Down Home Syncopators, which was often Fletcher Henderson and his Orchestra (where Louis Armstrong got turned on). In 2017, "Jack I'm Mellow" became the theme song for the comedy series Disjointed with Kathy Bates.




8. Knock Myself Out
In 1937, the hammer came down on gage, and this tune from 1941, recorded by Lil Green, takes a more moralistic tone than earlier, more celebratory recordings. After Peggy Lee's more uptempo, sweetened up version of "Do Right" eclipsed her own, Green tried to re-invent herself in a Billie Holiday style. She was signed by Atlantic Records in 1951 but died of pneumonia, at the (estimated) age of 35, three years later.



9. Twisted
British jazz singer Annie Ross penned the lyrics to "Twisted" in the bohemian year of 1952, and liked blowing gage with Sarah Vaughan. Ross dated Lenny Bruce and is shown here singing her song on Hugh Hefner's swingin' TV show. Joni Mitchell put the song on her "Court and Spark" album, complete with a cameo from Cheech & Chong).



10. Tea for Two
Jazz singer and convicted marijuana smoker Anita O'Day caused a sensation when she scatted her way through this classic at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958, dressed like she was going to a tea party. As "tea" was slang for marijuana, one wonders what kind she was drinking. "You can swing, you'd better come with us," Goodman's drummer Gene Krupa told her when he asked her to join his band. He was so right.

Also see: Top 10 Rock & Reggae Marijuana Songs By Women

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Country Music and Cannabis

"Met a trucker out of Philly, had a nice long toke."  -Wagon Wheel, the opening song for the series. 


Rosanne Cash: She Remembers Everything
Episode 6 of Ken Burns's remarkable Country Music series for PBS connects country music with the turbulent 60s. The soldiers who fought the Vietnam War largely came from the rural, working-class demographic and the soldiers were serenaded by political songs from Loretta Lynn and other country stars.

Kris Kristofferson is presented as the awesome poet that he is, elevating country lyrics to a whole new level. A Rhodes Scholar and fan of William Blake (he of the "Doors of Perception"), Kristofferson strayed from his Army career path after seeing Johnny Cash perform.

After breaking through with Tokin' Woman Janis Joplin's version of his song "Me and Bobby McGee," Kristofferson convinced Johnny Cash to record his song, "Sunday Morning Coming Down." Rosanne Cash tells the story of how her father sang the song's lyric as written on TV (in defiance of the censors): 

On a Sunday Morning Sidewalk 
I'm wishin' Lord that I was stoned....


As to Merle Haggard's famous song, "Oakie from Muskogee," which begins:

We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee
We don't take our trips on LSD....

The story is told about how the song was written as a joke, but to Haggard's surprise it got adopted as an anthem by rural, anti-marijuana folks. Ray Benson from the pot-loving band Asleep at the Wheel is interviewed saying how shocked he was when the song came out, because, "Everybody in country music knew that Merle smoked marijuana."

Kristofferson joined Haggard to sing his own tongue-in-cheek lyrics to the song at the 2011 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco:

We don't shoot that deadly marijuana  
We get drunk like God wants us to do...

Also presented in the series is the amusing anecdote that when Willie Nelson's farmhouse burned down outside Nashville in 1969, all he saved was his guitar Trigger and a guitar case full of marijuana. This fact was confirmed by the Twitter feed from Nelson's cannabis brand Willie's Reserve: 

Nelson's broadening of the country music, working from his home state of Texas, is presented: his recording of Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" is included, and he is credited with starting the long-running show "Austin City Limits." 

Nelson's collaboration with Haggard on The Outlaws record, whereby artists took control of their recording destiny outside the traditional Nashville system, is also covered. That album included Shel Silversten's song "Put Another Log on the Fire." Silverstein also penned Cash's #1 hit "A Boy Named Sue" and his other compositions included, "The Great Smoke-Off" and "The Perfect High." 

Guy Clark is shown in the episode singing his song L.A. Freeway:

If I can just get off of that L.A. Freeway
Without gettin' killed or caught
I'd be down that road in a cloud of smoke
For some land that I ain't bought bought bought...

Kacey Musgraves tweeted in 2016, after Clark died,




Even though many of the musicians interviewed were from Texas and cited Mexican music as an influence, few Latinx artists were included. One was Freddy Fender, whose career stalled after he was arrested for pot. A singer/songwriter not included in the series is Hoyt Axtonwho was also arrested for pot and wrote songs about it.

Graham Parsons is shown in his pot-leaf-adorned Nudie Cohn suit, and the contributions made by his singing partner Emmylou Harris, who he converted from folk to country music, are stunning: Among them, she recorded an album in the Ryman Auditorium, which had been long closed but soon re-opened as the home of the Grand Ole Opry. These days, singer Jenny Lewis appears in a costume inspired by Parsons's suit.

Dolly Parton is given her due in the series. Finally releasing herself from her seven-year stint as Porter Wagner's "girl singer" by writing "I Will Always Love You" for him (and allowing him to produce the recording), Parton went on to a huge crossover career that included acting smoking pot in the movie 9-5 with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. (I rather doubt Parton smokes it outside of the movies though; when she sang lead on Neil Young's "After Gold Rush" in trio with Emmylou and Linda Ronstadt, she changed the lyric "I felt like getting high" to "I felt like I could cry.")

Carlene Carter is also interviewed, revealing that her grandmother Maybelle wanted to sing "One Toke Over the Line," thinking it was a spiritual. She wasn't the only one: Lawrence Welk aired a version of the song, and called it "a modern spiritual." (Too bad then-VP Spiro Agnew went on a rampage against it, essentially killing its radio airplay and halting the success of hard-working midwest band Brewer & Shipley.) Comedic country musician Jim Stafford did a parody of the Carter Family's song "Wildwood Flower" called "Wildwood Weed" in 1974.

These days, country music's women are starting to feel freer to use marijuana, and sing about it. Not falling far from the tree, Willie's musician daughter Paula Nelson was arrested for pot herself on 4/20/2014. Margo Price, who's been hailed as country's new star, is co-branding a strain of cannabis with Willie's Reserve and female farmer Moon Made Farms.



Kacey Musgraves says one of the first songs she wrote after she moved to Nashville was "Burn One With John Prine." She broke through to radio airplay with her song, co-written with Brandy Clark, "Follow Your Arrow":

Make lots of noise
Kiss lots of boys
Or kiss lots of girls If that’s something you’re into
When the straight and narrow
Gets a little too straight
Roll up a joint or don't (I would)
Just follow your arrow wherever it points. 


I also really like Clark's "Get High," in which she sings about a housewife who, "when the to-dos have all been done," sits down at the kitchen table and "rolls herself a fat one."

You know life will let you down
Love will leave you lonely
Sometimes to only way to get by
Is to get high 


But the song that really (country) rocks me out is from Ashley Monroe:


 

 And I love this one from Willie's granddaughter Raelyn Nelson:

The Highwomen, an all-female supergroup formed by Amanda Shires with Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby, made their debut at Loretta Lynn's 87th birthday celebration in Nashville, singing "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels." Written as an answer to Hank Thompson's "The Wild Side of Life," the song was originally recorded by Kitty Wells in 1952, and became the first song by a solo female artist to hit No. 1 on the Billboard country charts. Lynn, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette covered the song for their 1993 album Honky-Tonk Angels; Wells makes a guest appearance on that version of the track. Source. 

No word on whether or not the Highwomen get high; their name is in homage to The Highwaymen: Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson. The lyrics to their song "Highwomen," a rewrite of the Jimmy Webb song "Highwayman," say: 

I was a healerI was gifted as a girlI laid hands upon the worldSomeone saw me sleeping naked in the noon sunI heard "witchcraft" in the whispers and I knew my time had comeThe bastards hung me at the Salem gallows hillBut I am living still

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Kate Chopin and An Egyptian Cigarette

American author Kate Chopin (1850–1904) wrote two published novels and about a hundred short stories in the 1890s. Her stories were well received, and appeared in Vogue and The Atlantic Monthly, among others.

In 1897, Chopin wrote a story titled, "An Egyptian Cigarette," which was first published in Vogue on April 19, 1902.

The story begins:

Friday, August 16, 2019

So Long, Peter. Ride Easy.

Peter Fonda, who taught Jack Nicholson how to smoke pot (and smoked it himself) onscreen in Easy Riderhas passed away at the age of 79.

Fonda shared a screenwriting Oscar with Dennis Hopper and Terry Southern for the breakthrough 1969 film, which is listed on the American Film Institute’s ranking of the top 100 American films, and included in the US National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Rip Torn and His Hashish Connection

This week we lost Rip Torn, the versatile actor who during his career played three roles in "Sweet Bird of Youth," including (pictured) the role of Chance, the young gigiolo who tries to blackmail aging actress Alexandra del Lago over her hashish habit in one of the earliest mentions of marijuana on film. 

I found online this screen test of Torn, who portrayed the evil Tom Finley Jr. in the 1962 movie, playing Chance against Geraldine Page, the lead actress to whom Torn was married.

Tennessee Williams wrote the play for actress Tallulah Bankhead, and she performed readings of it before its production. Bankhead was the subject of scandal in 1951 when her former personal secretary claimed his job included procuring pot and rolling joints for her.