Home Music Music Lists

Country’s 15 Highest Drug Odes

From Willie’s weed to Cash’s coke, we count down the greatest songs about illegal recreation

CBS via Getty Images

So maybe the late Merle Haggard didn’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee or take trips on LSD, but that certainly didn’t stop country’s greats from trading a shot of Tennessee brown for a toke of Colorado green — and singing about it, too. But true to the genre’s roots, these songs capture a complete, complex story: It’s never just as simple as relaxing on the beach with a joint in hand, and, more often than not, there are bitter consequences. These are tales that show both the pleasure and sorrow that comes with a life lived high.

[Editor’s Note: A version of this list was originally published June 2014]

From Rolling Stone US

CBS via Getty Images

Brewer & Shipley, ‘One Toke Over the Line’

When a song has the distinction of being labeled both “subversive” by Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and a “modern spiritual” by conservative talk-show host Lawrence Welk, you know you have a hit. Welk had a point. Folk duo Brewer & Shipley’s 1971 tune is pretty much just a groovy Southern gospel, though the only spirit it’s chasing is one that comes through a hash pipe. Hunter S. Thompson further cemented it into pop-culture history in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, with Dr. Gonzo humming it as he drove, leaving narrator Raoul Duke to wonder, “One toke? You poor fool!”

CBS via Getty Images

John Prine, ‘Sam Stone’

One of John Prine’s most achingly sad songs is about the destructive perils of war — and the drugs required to dull the pain of everything lost on the battlefield. “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm/where all the money goes,” he sings in his quintessentially nasal tone. Off 1971’s John Prine, the song is a key example of Prine’s master narrative style, using simple strum and vibrant, if not troubling, imagery to tell the story of how heroin serves the final shot in this poor veteran’s doomed life. Johnny Cash covered the tune on Austin City Limits in 1987, but it lost some of its pungency when he edited out the seminal lyric “Jesus Christ died for nothing/I suppose.”

CBS via Getty Images

Toby Keith, ‘Weed With Willie’

It’s probably not a unique story: get a little too high while chilling out on Willie Nelson’s tour bus, pass out, skip your plans for the night and wake up wondering what the hell happened. Except in this case, it’s Toby Keith, so stoned that he misses Charles Barkley’s Las Vegas birthday party. Happens to the best of us, right? A bonus track on 2003’s intolerably jingoistic Shock’n Y’all, this duet with longtime collaborator Scotty Emerick finds Keith cursing the aftermath of a night with the braided wonder and his killer stash, pledging to “never smoke weed with Willie again.” A promise, as he makes clear at the song’s witty end, that’s pretty difficult to keep.

CBS via Getty Images

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, ‘Seeds and Stems (Again)’

Commander Cody emerged during the psychedelic wave of the early Seventies, melding country with rockabilly and Western swing and shooting out a weird, sometimes uneasy breed of bellbottoms-and-cowboy-boots tunes that certainly get points for bucking genre lines. “Seeds and Stems (Again),” from their 1971 debut Lost in the Ozone, is a crooning lapsteel mourner about what happens when love is lost and there’s nothing left to smoke. It became more commonly known as “Down to Seeds and Stems Again Blues” after the release of their 1974 live album, Live From Deep in the Heart of Texas.