Rock and Roll, Magic and Marijuana

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and MuseumThe Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and MuseumCANNABIS CULTURE – The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which aired Saturday night on HBO, opened with Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner pronouncing, “I believe in the magic of rock and roll, the magic that can set you free.” Yet the industry so inspired by marijuana doesn’t mind that its fans who feel the same aren’t so free.

The show segued into Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top honoring blues singer Freddy King. The ZZ’s are the only band that’s ever done anything for a marijuana prisoner that I know of, when they donated a signed guitar to the Free Marc Emery campaign.

“A shaman am I, to lead us all to the realms within,” Donovan recited in a poem he wrote upon hearing of his induction, beginning with “my wonder days singing to the moon” and bringing knowing cheers with the line, “many plundered me for booty.” John Mellencamp introduced him as “one of the original originals.” Donovan was the original high-profile marijuana bust in England, after the film A Boy Called Donovan revealed his “beatnik” lifestyle to the newly formed Drug Squad that later busted the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Bette Midler was moved to tears introducing “one of my favorite artists, the extraordinary Laura Nyro,” who died at 49 of ovarian cancer. Nyro penned the hit “And When I Die” when she was only 18, and a string of hit for herself and others followed. She “could make going to the grocery store sound like a trip to the Casbah,” said Midler. “In those days, you really felt stuff.” A frequent user of marijuana, Nyro celebrated getting high in her hit “Stoned Soul Picnic” but it was her rather repentant “Stoney End,” a hit for Barbra Streisand, that was performed at the ceremony.

Inductees The Beastie Boys were introduced with their song, “You’ve Got to Fight For Your Right To Party” (except the music industry doesn’t, in any political realm). Kid Rock, who’s sung of “smoking funny things,” rapped in tribute.

The Small Faces were introduced with these lines from their sole US hit, “Itchycoo Park”:

What will we do there?
We’ll get high
What will we touch there?
We’ll touch the sky

Steve Van Zandt said that the group produced “some of the most soulful and beautiful music ever.” The surviving members of the band and its spinoff Faces probably performed the best music of the evening, though slightly out of practice and missing their front man Rod Stewart. Also missing was Axl Rose for the Guns and Roses tribute from pot-loving band Green Day, whose music opened the show.

The most inspired speech of the night came from bassist Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who was wearing a red shirt under his jacket with a white image that looked a lot like a pot leaf. It seems it’s something of a band uniform. Speaking of his love for music, Flea said when the band was inside the groove, “I’m lost, man. I’m totally free of everything and totally one with everything.” I’m hip.

There were, of course, references to troubles with alcohol and hard drugs, and sad reminders, like the absence of Small Faces frontman Steve Marriott who died in 1991 after taking valium, alcohol and cocaine. Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston were among those honored in a tribute to the year’s fallen, those deaths also due to alcohol and prescription drugs.

Marijuana never killed anyone, but the laws against it surely interfere with our freedom. Where is the “Green Aid” concert for the victims of bad marijuana laws? If anyone reading this can spearhead such a project, please do. I’m too busy dealing every day with pleas for help to make it happen.

Ellen Komp is Deputy Director of California NORML and a regular contributor to Cannabis Culture. She manages the website and blogs at Tokin Woman.