4/20 Playlist: Songs About Pot for the Cannabis Holiday

From Louis Armstrong to Brewer and Shipley, a look at music that has influenced the public's perception of marijuana

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Death Row


Today is April 20th, or 4/20, America's favorite counterculture "holiday"—an entire day devoted to the celebration of cannabis. The folklore about how the numbers 4 and 20—and by extension the time 4:20 and day 4/20—became synonymous with smoking marijuana is a bit murky. Some say 420 was the code police officers used to radio across their scanners when they were busting a pot party. Others claim that it refers to the time a group of California high schoolers in the '70s would meet each day to smoke.

But just as 4:20 has evolved to become a universally understood codeword, the public perception of marijuana has also changed. Back in September when California was debating Proposition 19, which would legalize the drug in order to tax it, Hampton Stevens argued that this evolution is inextricably tied to one thing: music.

Pop music brought Mary Jane to mass consciousness. And through generations of jazz, folk, rock, reggae, country, and rap, pop has played a massive role in winning mainstream acceptance for the drug. To see this dramatic shift at work, one only need take a tour of marijuana-themed music, of pop songs about pot, tunes about toking, compositions about the chronic, if you will. Or even if you won't.

To accompany his history, Stevens created a Playlist for Proposition 19. Here are three of the songs he chose:

"Muggles" by Louis Armstrong:



"One Toke Over the Line, Sweet Jesus" by Brewer & Shipley:



"Nuthin But a G Thang" by Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg:



See the full playlist and read more about the ties between weed culture and music in Hampton Steven's post, "Songs About Pot: A Proposition 19 Playlist."

Did he miss anything? Put your song suggestions for a "4/20 Playlist" in the comments or tweet them to us at @TheAtlanticENT with the hashtag #420playlist.

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Kevin Fallon is a reporter for the Daily Beast. He's a former entertainment editor at TheWeek.com and former writer and producer for The Atlantic's entertainment channel.

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