14 Songs You Never Realized Are All About Drugs
There is absolutely no doubt that Afroman’s "Because I Got High" and Eric Clapton’s "Cocaine" are about drugs; it says so right there in the title. However, not every artist is so on the nose, and there are a slew of songs you didn't know are about drugs. Here are 14 secret drug songs that may surprise you.
Some of the songs on this list are certainly up to interpretation. Not every artist is just going to come out and say, "This is a song about an illegal substance." True, David Byrne often tells a live audience that his song "And She Was" is about LSD. But it’s only obvious once you know that. And remember the hit song "Semi-Charmed Life"? It's almost definitely among songs you never noticed are about drug use. But listen closer, and you'll notice the crystal meth references all over the lytics. It’s just so upbeat and catchy that it’s hard to make out the brutally dark meaning.
From Ed Sheeran to U2, plenty of not-so-druggy rock stars have penned surprising odes to drug abuse. Take a listen and get ready to have your eyes opened.
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"Toy Soldiers" was a cut off of singer-songwriter Martika's self-titled 1988 debut album. The haunting, emotional tune reached number one on the Billboard charts for two weeks in 1989. Martika explained how she wrote it as an anti-drug song:
"I was a little hesitant because I had only written two songs before and they were light songs. I came up to Michael and said I wanted to write about drugs. It was the first time I got the nerve to write about something that was scary for me to talk about, so I did."
The singer wrote the song specifically about a friend who had been battling cocaine addiction:
"He can't listen to it. It gives him the chills. He says it affects him too much. He knows it's about him. He loves it. He thinks it's a beautiful song, but when he listens to my record, he skips over that.''
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One of the legendary folk singer's most popular songs, "Fire and Rain" came off of James Taylor's 1970 album Sweet Baby James. Taylor explained during a 2005 interview with NPR that the song was written in three parts. The first part of the song discussed Taylor's reaction to a friend of his named Suzanne who committed suicide.
The second part of the song is the one that highlights Taylor's battle with heroin addiction and deep depression:
"Won't you look down upon me, Jesus,
You've got to help me make a stand.
You've just got to see me through another day.
My body's aching and my time is at hand
And I won't make it any other way."
Finally, the third part of the song discusses Taylor's struggle with handling fame and money. He references his old band, The Flying Machine, and how it did not make it: "Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground."
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Got To Get You Into My Life By The Beatles
So many Beatles songs are clearly about drugs (“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Day Tripper,” for example). However, upon a quick listen, “Got to Get You Into My Life” appears to be a love song. Not so, admits Paul McCartney in Barry Miles's 1997 book, Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now:
"It's actually an ode to pot, like someone else might write an ode to chocolate or a good claret.”
McCartney also revealed in a 2004 interview with the Daily Mirror that he tried heroin once and did cocaine for about a year. However, the band never let drugs get in the way of the music:
"Just about everyone was doing drugs in one form or another and we were no different, but the writing was too important for us to mess it up by getting off our heads all the time."
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Bad By U2
"Bad" is a cut off of U2's fourth studio album, Unforgettable Fire. In the 1980s, there was a significant number of heroin addicts in Dublin. Before Bono sings "Bad" in concert, he will often tell the crowd that this is a song about Dublin.
During a 1987 performance in Chicago, Bono introduced "Bad" with an especially heartfelt story:
"This is a song about the city we grew up in. A song about Dublin city. And a song about a drug called heroin that’s tearing our city in two, that's tearing the heart out of the city of Dublin, tearing the heart out of the city of Chicago. Rich people stuff dollars in the back of their pocket while poor men lie in gutters with needles stuck in their arms. Screw them, I say. This is a song about a friend of mine who was given on his 21st birthday enough heroin into his bloodstream to kill him. This is a song called 'Bad.'"
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Talking Heads' "And She Was" is a poppy, upbeat cut off the band's 1985 album Little Creatures. In the liner notes of Once in a Lifetime: The Best of Talking Heads, lead singer David Byrne describes how the song references the acid trip of a girl he met in Maryland:
"I used to know a blissed-out hippie-chick in Baltimore. She once told me that she used to do acid (the drug, not music) and lay down on the field by the Yoo-hoo chocolate soda factory. Flying out of her body, etc etc. It seemed like such a tacky kind of transcendence... but it was real! A new kind of religion being born out of heaps of rusted cars and fast food joints. And this girl was flying above it all, but in it too."
Bryne introduces the song with the story in the video above.
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The A Team By Ed Sheeran
"The A Team" was singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran's introduction to the world. It's a folksy, upbeat tune that certainly masks the weight of the lyrics. Sheeran penned the song after visiting a homeless shelter when he was 18 years old. During his visit, he heard stories about women who were struggling with substance abuse. Smoking crack in the song is poetically depicted as "breathing in snowflakes."
Sheeran said he wrote the song specifically for a woman named Angel, who was called the "unofficial sheriff of the shelter":
"I was 18 at the time. Lived away from home for about two years but I had never really seen the dark underbelly of London. It was a bit of a wake up call to me. I wrote this song for Angel.”