The intimate relationship between music and drugs has been well-documented in the past decades.
Moreover, these drug abuse chronicles transcend music genres and artists because drugs have been present in venues, rehearsal rooms, and studios since day one.
That troublesome relationship many artists have had with the use and abuse of forbidden substances not only created a myth around the “music star” persona but also gave birth to countless songs.
Here we have a selection of 37 attempts musicians made to conquest their bad habits by writing hit songs about them.
1. Breaking the Habit – Linkin Park
“Breaking the Habit” is featured as the ninth track in Meteora, released in 2003.
- The main theme of the song is the attempt to break a bad habit by someone who has a tendency to hurt himself mentally and physically.
- The late Chester Bennington, Linkin Park’s singer was in an endless fight against drug and alcohol abuse that almost breaks the band. This song reflects some of those feelings of knowing the path but knowing not how to walk it.
- Although the song was about a deep struggle, Chester Bennington did all the takes for the vocals perfectly on a single afternoon.
2. Cocaine – Eric Clapton
“Cocaine” was written and recorded by JJ Cale in 1976. That being said, Eric Clapton’s version is the most famous yet. It belongs to his record Slowhand, released in 1977.
- To leave heroine, Eric Clapton took a deep dive into alcohol and cocaine. According to the guitarist and singer’s autobiography, he was going through that phase when he recorded this song.
- Once Eric Clapton could finally get away from drugs of all sorts, including alcohol, he had to “relearn” how to play music while being sober. According to Clapton, everything sounded very rough to his ears during that period.
- While Clapton was recording Slowhand, he and his band got an opportunity to see JJ Cale in concert. That night, Cale brought Clapton on stage so they could perform “Cocaine” as a duet.
3. White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
- During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, many musicians were doing a plethora of drugs. Also, during that time a cataract of drug-related songs rose to the surface. This song is Slick’s interpretation of the trippy book “Alice in Wonderland” written by Lewis Carroll.
- Slick was on LSD and had spent hours listening to Sketches of Spain, an album by jazz legend, Miles Davis. The opening track for that record “Concierto de Aranjuez” is where the song’s Spanish beat comes from. Another rhythmic influence on the song was Ravel’s “Bolero”.
- At the time this song was released, the common formula always included a solo by some instrument, a C-part, verses, and a chorus. This song departs from that structure with the vocals arriving after half a minute and staying until the last second without any breaks. According to the band, it resembled the LSD trip better that way.
4. Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
“Purple Haze” belongs to The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut album Are You Experienced? released in 1967 to critical acclaim.
- The inspiration for this song, according to Jimi, came from an underwater dream in which a purple haze surrounded and engulfed him which caused the singer to get lost. In his dream, his faith in Jesus saved his life.
- Jimi’s playing skills were among the highest in his lifetime. The song starts out with the “forbidden progression”, a flattened fifth interval between the first two chords. Composers generally avoid that because it’s called “the most imperfect of dissonances”.
- Although Hendrix claimed the song had nothing to do with drugs, a legion of his fans still believes it was related to an acid trip and the smoke of marijuana.
5. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – The Beatles
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was released as part of the Fab Four’s 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
- The character of “Lucy” was inspired by one of Julian Lennon’s classmates. John Lennon said during a 1975 interview that his son had drawn a picture of this girl with stars behind her and called it Lucy in the sky with diamonds. Thus, the song.
- The initial of every word in the song’s title, the psychedelic images in the lyrics, and the odd instrumentation led the Beatles to think that the song was about LSD. Nevertheless, John Lennon told Rolling Stone Magazine in 1971 that he was not aware that the title was formed with the initials LSD.
- The BBC banned this song because of drug references.
6. Under the Bridge – Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Anthony Kiedis was a recovered heroin addict by the time he wrote this song. The lyrics talk about the loneliness he felt while doing the drug. Moreover, the bridge the singer mentions is the place where he would go to score the drug and get high.
- “Under the Bridge” is a song that was very close to never happening. It started as a poem Kiedis had written to express very intimate feelings. Rick Rubin, the album producer found it in one of the singer’s notebooks and convinced him to show it to the band. At first, Kiedis was reluctant, but eventually, it became a timeless classic for the band.
- The choir voices that can be heard in the background belong to John Frusciante’s mother and two of her church choir friends. The album credits them as “Gail Frusciante and her friends”.
7. Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd
- The song’s lyrics describe the passionate relationship the singer had with a woman although he knew she wasn’t good for him. The main feeling that drives the lyrics is doing what you know is wrong because you just love it too much.
- According to rumors, the song was about cocaine and the numbing effect it can have on some people’s faces. The evidence to back up this theory is in line with the feeling of doing the wrong thing knowing it’s bad for you.
- The song got certified diamond by the RIAA and was chosen as the best song of 2015 by Rolling Stone Magazine. Also, it was nominated for two Grammy Awards and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 list in the USA and Canada as well as in New Zealand, Mexico, Denmark, South Africa, and Ireland.
8. Semi-Charmed Life – Third-Eye Blind
“Semi-Charmed Life” is a song and an album released in 1997 by Third Eye Blind as their debut album.
- The song’s main theme relates to a high that’s drug-induced and helps the singer cope with the situation he’s involved in. In other words, the use of drugs makes everything feel better in rough situations.
- The song’s lyrics talk specifically about crystal meth addiction. The line “I want something else…” is a clear reference to that substance in the song.
- According to the band, the “doot doot doot” section of the song was “borrowed” from Lou Reed’s 1972 hit “Walk on the Wild Side”.
9. We found love – Rihanna
10. One Toke Over the Line – Brewer And Shipley
11. Antidote – Travis Scott
12. Mother’s Little Helper – The Rolling Stones
13. Mr. Brownstone – Guns N’ Roses
14. Interstate Love Song – Stone Temple Pilots
15. Heroin – The Velvet Underground
16. Purple Pills – D12
17. Hurt – Johnny Cash
18. We Are All On Drugs – Weezer
19. Swimming Pools – Kendrick Lamar
20. Mary Jane – Rick James
21. Molly – Tyga Feat. Wiz Khalifa
22. Sister Morphine – The Rolling Stones
23. The Needle and the Damage Done – Neil Young
24. I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me) – Marilyn Manson
25. And She Was – Talking Heads
26. Sweet Leaf – Black Sabbath
27. Bettlebum – Blur
28. Gold Dust Woman – Fleetwood Mac
29. The Drugs don`t Work – The Verve
30. Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll – Ian Dury
31. Drugs – Talking Heads
32. Bad – U2
33. The Needle And The Spoon – Lynyrd Skynyrd
34. Chop Suey!- System of a Down
35. Higher Than the Sun – Primal Scream
36. Fall to Pieces – Velvet Revolver
37. Master of Puppets – Metallica
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