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What’s with all these country songs about drugs?

Kid Rock started it.

“We were trying different things. And we were smoking funny things.” You know that song, right? “All Summer Long” got so much crossover radio airplay in 2008 that it reached #4 on the country charts. Since then, country radio has awakened to the idea that listeners really like songs about pot.

One summer after “All Summer Long” came out, the Zac Brown Band put out a song called “Toes.” (Kid Rock is actually in the video.) “Toes” is another song about chillaxin’ at the beach, and has this lyric: “Gonna lay in the hot sun and roll a big fat one and grab my guitar and play.” Nobody noticed. Radio listeners were more outraged about the word “ass” than the fact that the song has a line about getting high.

Then the hits just kept coming. Randy Houser sang “I’ve been known to giggle on a joke/Mostly when I’m smokin’ on my smoke” in “They Call Me Cadillac.” Eric Church’s “Smoke A Little Smoke” has this lyric: “Dig down deep, find my stash, light it up, take me back.” The music video shows the singer puffing on a cigar, but you’d have to be high to think that song is about cigars.

Something interesting is going on. Despite Nashville’s reputation for clean-cut family music, country radio is suddenly celebrating weed. It might be a cultural reflection of the heartland declaring that, like Americans everywhere, they like to get high. Merle Haggard was wrong—they do smoke marijuana in Muskogee.

Drugs have made appearances in country music before. Traditional country sometimes mentioned hard drugs in cautionary tales about hard living, like Johnny Cash singing “Cocaine Blues” at Folson Prison. Willie Nelson released an album with a huge ganja leaf on the cover. Jimmy Buffet long ago named his band The Coral Reefers. And there would be no country music without songs about drinking. But this new breed of country is the first to have so many party songs explicitly about about illegal substances.

One recent exception is “High Cost of Living” by a singer named Jamey Johnson. Sounding a lot like the outlaw country artists from the 1970s, Johnson sings, “That Southern Baptist parking lot was where I’d go to smoke my pot and sit there in my pickup truck and pray.” The character in his song could have had a good life, “but I traded that for cocaine and a whore.” In the end, it’s a song about recovery. “In my newfound sobriety, I’ve got the time to sit and think of all the things I had and threw away.”

“High Cost of Living” is the way country songs ought to sound. The most enduring country lyrics are poems about struggle, consequence and pain. We turn to country to make sense out of the difficult stuff that happens to us and our friends and families. At the end of a difficult day, when we get in our cars and put the radio on, country songs are supposed to help us untangle our minds.

I can’t deny that Kid Rock song is catchy, but all I feel when I listen to it is a lazy cloud of mellow feelings. Country music is a reflection of American life—superficial on the surface, with complex knots of emotion below it. It is about as close as we come to acknowledging that in pop culture. Let’s not lose it in a haze of smoke.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Lyrics

33 comments

  1. Kev says:

    I completely 100 percent agree. We don’t need these “country” songs about smoking dope, its hard to even call them country when its about that stuff. My opinion is that younger artists keep arising, and as we all know, younger people usually are the ones who smoke weed. I hope this is just a short phase

  2. Chunk says:

    Right, like there aren’t any songs about alcohol and getting drunk. I don’t know for a fact but what have you contributed to music as a whole? If you don’t like it, don’t buy. I’m so sick of people complaining about “their” music. You go ahead and make your own and start a revolution of purity…. Just make sure you leave out the drug “alcohol” from your music.

  3. music fan says:

    drugs and alcohol have been in many diff. genres of music for many years.why all of a sudden get ta pouting and b*tchin over the songs content.seems pretty petty to me,and mind you,that certain country songs that have the drug/alcohol theme in them tell a story of hitting rock bottom by using them,or recovery or both.a song that that has lyrics like them could possibly touch someone and open thiere eyes if they are going through what the story is telling.on the other hand..party songs about drug use..eh not my thing.party songs about drinkin havent been that big of a deal.all in all tho,the music of today is what it is.btw “family oriented”? didnt know there was such a thing…unless its christian music or kids sing along lol..the only reason country has a rep. of being wholesome,is bc its not as brash and wreckless in the music and lyrics as certain other genres but by no means does it have a squeeky clean image,and honestly never has.contemplate on that.

    • Rob says:

      i totally agree..all i listen to is country..and sure there are drinkinng themes and drug themes..but the drug ones r about hitting rock bottom..well put..like jolene by zac brown..he mentions cocaine..but how it hurt him..ppl cnt just listen for the drug..they have to listen for the meaning of it in the song

  4. Erica says:

    Most of them are about pot. Not a big deal. Get over it.

  5. Travis says:

    If any of you who posted on this can tell me what exactly makes marijuana bad could tell me there reasons why I would GREATLY appreciate it. Especially if you or someone you know regularly smoked and it cause you ANY kind of medical problems. Country music is finally getting around to saying exactly what they want and being honest. People who smoke weed and do nothing with their lives are naturally lazy. Weed is just an excuse for them to be lazy. Even country music stars are starting to realize that weed isn’t as bad as people have always thought it was.

  6. Poptech says:

    You want to know what makes Marijuana bad? The irrefutable fact that is causes brain damage (among other negative health effects) as shown by MRI scans,

    http://www.populartechnology.net/2008/12/anti-marijuana-resource.html

  7. Josie of Canada says:

    Are you kidin me country has sung about drugs since hank Williams you all think it’s a big deal now because your just starting to listen, cowboys have always sang about cocaine an weed not just snoop an kid, and how about the irrefutable fact that alcohol causes liver damage and can cause the same amount of brain damage as cocaine, if u beleive in god then u better beleive he created pot too pal.

  8. Trevon in Ohio says:

    i agree with josie. you guys just need something new to b!tch about so lets taget country music now. country music stars have been doing drugs forever and are just now not caring what anyone thinks. how many people here like Keith Urban. he was a heroin junkie. Cash took pills, Hank Jr. coke. its just now getting to the point we can talk about it. country music is suppost to be about life and having a good time. times change. 2 generations ago they sang of gun fights. the past generation talked of getting drunk. this talks about smoking pot. who gives! you cant control it. if you got a problem then stop listening to it and buying it. if enough people have problems with it then popularity and sales will go down giving them a hint something has to change. if the majority doesnt want it to change then you few out there need to suck it up. enough said.

  9. dankwalsh says:

    your the one high as a kite to thing that this is a new trend. country music has roots with bluegrass and folk. country, bluegrass, and folk alike are all born out of blue collar societies where illicit drugs run rampant.

    some other examples (both current and old):

    trampled by turtles: codeine
    old crow medicine show: methanphetamine, cocaine
    bob dylan: desolation row, rainy day woman
    peggy seeger: miss heroin
    red arnall: cocaine blues

  10. Hadj says:

    Totally disagree. For one drugs or marijuana(which seems to be the focus here) have been popping up in country long before kid rock. Ie David Alan Coe, Charlie Daniels or how about Hank Williams jr’s family tradition? It may be more common now, but Kid Rock has been talking about weed since “Devil Without a Cause” not “All Summer Long.” Also opinion of what country music is or what it should sound like is exactly that, an opinion. I like my country sometimes dark, brash, or rockin’. It doesn’t have to fit a check list of acceptable country. Its 2012 timess have changed. I would much rather have country stars singing about smoking weed on a beach than drinking whiskey and runnin from the law(which is the setting for a whole lot of country songs. If my kids had to choose between listening to Zac Brown or Hank Jr. It’d be Zac Brown Band all day.. even if every song was about weed. “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” – Bob Marley

  11. jake says:

    anyone who cares enough to get upset about hearing marijuana references in country music doesn’t deserve to have there opinion heard, look at any other genre of music with the exception of gospel and a few others such as the wiggles who are also stoners its all about drugs, alcohol, pain, life and just living. if you have a problem with me smoking a doobie and having a few beers at my fire, at my cabin, on the 4th of july, well your just not american and shouldn’t be on this topic anyways, let the people live their lives and if you don’t like it write your own music.

  12. Niick says:

    C’mon now… Willie Nelson is one of the biggest country singer pot advocates out there, Charlie Daniels talked about gettin stoned in the mornin and gettin drunk in the afternoon.

  13. Alec says:

    This is stupid. This isn’t “your music” and who says all country is about is difficult, hardworking, and everyday life in America? Because i for a fact believe that music is what the artist makes it. For Eric, its about that kicking back moment and enjoying your life, not “smokin’ the dope because he’s a badass.” Get this post out of here and your god damn opinion of “what everyone else thinks.”

  14. Andrew says:

    I haven’t traditionally listened to country. I have held a negative connotation about country for a long time, but I’ve never refused to listen to it or hated it, just preferred other things. Lately I have been forced to listen to it a lot and it’s lyrics like “gonna lay in the hot sun and roll a big fat one and grab my guitar and play” by Zac Brown that have made me warm up to it. I smoke weed. I love smoking weed. Most of the people I know love weed, they make not be potheads, but they will never refuse a puff. Most of the people I know are good ol’ boys (I live in Georgia) who listen to country. The truth of the matter is that I can relate to sitting on a beach and getting high and not givin a fuck about anything else. I know what it’s like to be high and just not wanting to move or do anything and any song that reciprocates my sentiment, is a song that I like. Songs that mention weed are going to draw in new listeners, like myself, to the genre and you shouldn’t be complaining.

  15. Chris says:

    I like the old country that was good. Too fucking many goddamned doped up potheads that I used to like can;t do nothing better than get high than fuck them and all yall that think pot os so good. If ya got something good to say, say it, if ya gonna talk shit about my comment and support pot then I dont give a fuck what ya got to say. Fuck you.

  16. TheGarnet says:

    I can’t believe people actually give a sh*t about this. Hank Jr sang about weed years ago, and Hank Sr was a known drug user. If you think pot isn’t country, you never grew up in the country. Why do you think most pot is grown in the country?

  17. Matt from Canada says:

    Chris smoke a joint and calm yourself, the writer of this article is so narrow minded

  18. Mike S says:

    Moonshine isn’t the only vice that real country folks are known for. Meth is the moonshine of the twenty first century. It’s very common to put a pot plant in the tomato patch for your own consumption of course. I wish they would just make it legal like they finally did licker and wine making. As long as you are making it for your own use what’s the harm? I will add something else: a living in the real hills, country or what ever you want to call it is hard to come by; I’ll be #### if I’ll rat out a man trying to support his family with a little homemade alcohol or weed. The meth thing I could do with out but seriously when is the last time you saw a violent pot smoker? They might laugh their
    a$$ off waiting for the pizza delivery guy to finally show up but that’s about as violent as pot will make you. Booze on the other hand can cause some one to become quite an A hole. Meth is just plain addictive poison; meth has the same problem as car radiator and rubbing alcohol moonshine does: The short cutters and drug dealers cut every corner; they can produce a product cheaper and make more of it for less money; end result is you can die from it. If it were made legal it could be regulated and standards of quality set for it.

  19. andrew says:

    smoke weed every day its not as bad as every one thinks u should try it sometime seeing how alcohal u can drink enough of and die yet no matter how much u smoke of pot it will not kill you there are 0 count them 0000000000 weed related deaths so F it smoke up boys and girls : )

  20. Anthony says:

    Is this really that big of a deal? These songs aren’t offensive, because who doesn’t smoke nowadays. It’s something that grows naturally and there’s nothing better after a hard days work than to sit back with a couple of friends and “chill”.

  21. Brando says:

    It was a good, informative read until it got real biased. If you agree with this dude (original poster)position, y’all must not about country man lol. The hippie lettuce is everywhere! Country is about real times, real life. That shit is real people. Everybody know about the little jar people pass around the campfire ;)

  22. Gothic_country says:

    Just cuz you don’t smoke Doesnt mean it’s a bad thing. Alcohol cuz more damage in every way then marijuana does period science even proves those facts do your research and oh btw kid rock isn’t country and definitely not the first you need to do your research

  23. Gothic_country says:

    Oh and poptech check your resources those trials were deemed to bias to be takin in consideration

  24. The smoking midnight toking joker says:

    If country music is supposed to reflect america then perhaps its reflecting that the prohibition of weed is no longer welcomed or respected by her citizens anymore. I am more disturbed by the songs that talk about going to the mall and the hard life of the business executive. You cant convince me a cowboy on the range wouldnt smoke a fatty sooner than he would be caught dead behind a desk or at the sbarro across from victorias secret.

  25. nate says:

    U sir are a fool weed is not a drug and safer than “moonshine” and beer that country singers usually sing about… willy nelson smokes mad dank and is a legend

  26. @jacjac_ says:

    Why are you pinning this on kid rock and zac brown when they are following in the steps of willie nelson and his songs about weed and Kenny rogers songs about LSD? Willie Nelson is still touring like a champ and he’s older than my gran and a lot happier and chilled out she is! You need to lighten up and get your facts straight!

  27. propot says:

    All natural pot stuff you grow and knows where it comes from is safe and beneficial to people of sickness and just to relax and have a good time (like alcohol) marijuana is not a man made drug like alcohol or cocaine it is a plant that has been on this earth for ages along with making his own whiskey. George Washington (yes our first president) used to actually grew hid own pot and exchanged blends (or stains in today’s world) with fellow founding fathers and future presidents … It is not a gate way drug the only why it is said. To believe it is a gate way drug is because most people get their pot from a dealer and most dealer toake the maximum about of money sells more than just one drug. But if. People could grow their own they would not be under pressure to go to other drugs . Marijuana is the cause of 0 deaths (excluding car accidents) it should not be considered a drug how can u lable a plant that grows on earth illegal to harvest and smoke … The plant it self has many uses as well such as hemp paper hemp clothes the fist many drafts of the constitution and deceleration of independence were written on. Hemp paper hmmmmm… Its only been illegal for less than 1% of its time on earth and it has no reason be be illegal the government they spend way to much money to try and stop the war on pot its never gonna happen cause its a plant it will always be around it can pretty much grow anywhere

  28. J says:

    you would sound alot smarter if you learned some fucking grammar

  29. Me says:

    Also, the marijuana (hemp) that was grown by many of the founding fathers and old farmers was inert, meaning it contained none/very little THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the “drug” in marijuana. It was not smoked or abused (at least not very often) like it is in today’s society, but rather used (like you stated) in many forms, like rope and every now and then, in paper. Yes, the government did/does go overboard making it illegal, but it IS a gateway drug. Again, look your shit up before you decide to rant about it. Here’s a link for you idiots. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2912/did-george-washington-and-thomas-jefferson-grow-marijuana

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