At the age of 64, Canadian rocker Neil Young finally won his first Grammy award on Sunday night, one he shared for art direction on the box set Neil Young Archives Vol. 1 (1963-1972). Young was also recognized for his long-standing charity Bridge concerts, and for the Neil Young benefit on Friday night that raised more than $4 million. Young and Bob Dylan, neither of whom can really sing, were beat out by Bruce Springsteen for Best Solo Rock Vocal.
Shakey, Jim McDonough’s 785-page biography of Young (Random House), explores Young’s epilepsy, one of the diseases for which some find relief from medical marijuana. Young says homegrown is still all right with him, but “I try not to smoke too much. I don’t wanna set a bad example for the kids.”
Among the Lifetime Achievement awardees at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony was another Canadian, Leonard Cohen, along with Andre Previn and Bobby Darin.
According to Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira B. Nadel (1997), Cohen began experimenting with marijuana, peyote and LSD in the mid-fifties. “High on LSD or marijuana, Cohen found the freedom to experiment poetically and to attempt new forms for his songwriting… He had always understood drugs to be sacramental and ceremonial, not recreational. Under their influence, he felt he was able to explore psychological and creative states that were otherwise unavailable.”
Previn, along with Cary Grant, Jack Nicholson, and James Coburn, took LSD when it was legal in a clinical setting. Darin, who had success as a cabaret-style singer, underwent a hippie awakening later in his career, when he sported a mustache and wrote anti-war songs like “A Simple Song of Freedom.” His song “Me and Mr. Hohner” talks about cops asking him,
That’s a cute mustache You have picked a bad spot Now da whole thing’s silly
Have ya got any hash?
I’d like to make a buy, says the small one.
To smoke your pot
Whatcha gonna do two against one?
But I’m starin’ at the billy
Quietly askin’ myself now will he …
You have picked a bad spot
Now da whole thing’s silly
Pot-loving band Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown took the Best Rock Album prize, and Stephen Colbert got the comedy album award for “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift Of All!” (He quipped, “It’s a Christmas album, so I suppose I should thank God.”)
In a January 2006 City Arts and Lectures interview at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, Colbert said he smoked “a lot” of pot for a period of time in high school, while honing his devil-may-care comedy style. Interviewing ice cream makers Ben and Jerry on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, he asked of Willie Nelson’s flavor, “What’s his made of, shredded tax forms and hash?” When interviewing Carole King, he pulled out his Tapestry album and demonstrated how he used to clean the seeds out of his pot on the folding cover.
Lady Gaga appeared on the awards program as a green fairy, and Pink performed acrobatics to “Glitter in the Air.” She and American Idol Kelly Clarkson were nominated for Best Pop Album. Pink said in 2002, “I don’t consider pot a drug. It’s a plant. It comes from the earth. George Washington smoked pot.” In 2007, Clarkson told USA Weekend magazine she ate a marijuana cookie in Amsterdam.
Beyonce picked up many more awards than she deserved, and sang Canadian songwriter Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” In December, Morissette came out to High Times as a marijuana smoker. “As an artist, there’s a sweet jump-starting quality to [marijuana]for me,” she said. “If ever I need some clarity… or a quantum leap in terms of writing something, it’s a quick way for me to get to it.”
Californian Jason Mraz walked off with a pair of Grammys, one for Best Pop Male Vocal (“Make It Mine”) and the other for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, beating out Willie Nelson & Nora Jones’s “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Jones told Blender in 2007 that she liked getting the munchies and “Willie’s weed is no joke.” Nelson just canceled a North Carolina concert either due to a problem with his hand or the way his tour bus smelled.
“Everybody I know smokes pot for every possible kind of purpose,” Mraz told CelebStoner. “I think pot laws are ridiculous.” In 2000 Mraz was arrested for marijuana possession in Texas en route to opening for James Taylor. He reminisces about the incident in his song, “Ain’t Got No Dope/All I Got’s My 40.” In February 2009, Mraz joined a rally for the legalization of marijuana in Harajuku, Tokyo, holding a sign that read, “FREE THE WEED.”
The Black Eyed Peas performed at the show and were three-time winners, for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group (“I Gotta Feeling”), Best Pop Vocal Album (The E.N.D.) and best Short Video (“Boom Boom Pow”). Black Eyed Peas’ singer Taboo (né Jaime Luis Gomez) was arrested near LA in March 2007 when police found marijuana in his car after a minor traffic accident.
Comedian Steve Martin returned to his banjo-picking days and won Best Bluegrass Album for The Crow. Martin just appeared in the film It’s Complicated, in which he smokes pot with Meryl Streep, pronouncing, “I forgot how much fun having fun was.”
It was no surprise that one of Bob Marley’s sons (Stephen) won for Best Reggae Album (Mind Control), but it was sweeter still that Ziggy Marley won Best Musical Album for Children (Family Time).
Nominated in the Best Musical category were Hair and 9 to 5 – The Musical, based on the movie that had Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin puffing pot and making mischief for their boss. Woodstock – 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur’s Farm was nominated for Best Historical Album.
Best Long Form Video went to The Beatles Love – All Together Now (and we all know what they were smoking). Also nominated was Anita O’Day – The Life Of A Jazz Singer. O’Day was arrested in March 1947 and did time for pot in, “What appears to be an all-out campaign by local authorities to tag a big name in the music business with a marijuana charge.” (Variety).
The times, they are a changin’.
Ellen Komp is an activist and writer who manages the website VeryImportantPotheads.com.