Drugs and Music in Popular Culture

1 January 2017

Drugs and Music in Popular Culture One of America’s leading social issues is Drugs. Merriam and Webster define drugs as something and often an illicit substance that causes addiction, habituation, or a marked change in consciousness. Drugs have been around since the discovery of the America’s in 1492(Shmoop Editorial Team, 2008). A gift from Native American’s to Christopher Columbus in the form of a local grown favorite, tobacco.

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Nicotine quickly became a favorite, and without tobacco in the international drug trade, North America may have never actually become The United States. Tobacco was also the first drug to be perceived through popular culture. Actors like John Wayne, and Humphrey Bogart (who later died of lung cancer) frequently smoked on screen ( Schmoop Editorial Team, 2008). Singers such as Frank Sinatra was often observed smoking cigarettes during concerts. Later, ads in popular magazines featured the Marlboro man known to attract women to cigarettes.

Another popular drug in the 1800’s was derived from the opiate plant to construct morphine. Morphine was used during the civil war to help wounded soldiers but led to high addiction which was called “the army disease”. Cocaine became extremely popular in the 1880’s and was considered a miracle drug. By 1911, it was claimed to be linked with prostitution and the corruption of young women (Schmoop Editorial Team, 2008). Drugs have proved over the years to be hazardous in many forms and to overall, lower ones quality of life.

From caffeine, to cocaine, marijuana, to nicotine, alcohol to ecstasy; Drugs and music have been a part of American History and American culture from the beginning As different drugs emerged, in United States, so did the conflict and problems. Popular music and its lyrics followed primarily suggesting positive feelings with drug use. The problem is; the majority of popular music’s listeners are youth and adolescents. The 1960’s were a time of revolution and reform.

Drugs of many kinds hit mainstream American culture. Marijuana and hallucinogen drugs such as acid nd LSD became a favorite and what was known as psychedelic Rock was born. (Schmoop Editorial Team, 2008). In the 1967 release of The Beatles’, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” was an example of the effects of the newly loved LSD drugs. Though vague even the Capitalized letters in the title explained the song’s lyrics; “Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain,Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies. Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers,That grow so incredibly high. Newspaper taxis appear on the shore,Waiting to take you away. Climb in the back with your head in the clouds,.

And you’re gone”(The Beatles,1967) This was an honest description of the type of trip experienced on LSD. The song slow tempo and genre of psychedelic rock was the perfect enhancer for those that enjoyed LSD’s effects. The majority of Beatles’ fans were young adults, and the majority of those known for trying the new drug that helped them escape life’s struggles at that time, such as Vietnam, racial reform, and the draft. A top 30 United States in 1980 was Eric Clapton’s Cocaine. With the psychedelic Rock stage behind America, the new popular drug among musicians and within popular culture was cocaine.

The lyrics were not quite as vague as those about drugs in the 60’s, but what many Eric Clapton fans did not realize was he was trying to send an anti-drug message through his lyrics; “If your thing is gone and you want to ride on; cocaine. Don’t forget this fact, you can’t get it back; cocaine. She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie; cocaine. ”(Eric Clapton,1976). With its bluesy rock tones, and relaxing melody, the song was targeted at range of audiences that appreciated the already highly famous artist.

It referred to cocaine as a “She” which would lead to believe it was directed at men in general who was using the drug to escape every day hardships of economic, and family struggles. Eric Clapton warns that once everything goes away, you can never get it back. The 1990’s and popular music brought new drugs to their lyrics. Third eye blinds 1997 number one Billboard chart topper was Semi-Charmed Life. (Billboard. com 2012) This song belonged to a genre of Modern Rock, the song appealed to young and changing musical crowd. It was the emergence of the grunge rock era.

The song’s lyrics were about the addiction to Crystal meth which was a new popular drug in American Society. “I was taking sips of it through my nose,and I wish it could get back there, some place back there,smiling in the pictures you would take,doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break. I want something else,to get me through this, semi charmed kind of life. ”(Third Eye Blind, 1997). The song seems to imply that doing crystal meth, makes you feel better, but you’ll eventually break, and that he longs for something more in life to help him get through it.

The sexual innuendo’s throughout the song implies that it was possibly directed at a younger male audience. The band could have never known that it would be sung by youth all over America. The year 2000 brought in the millennium and brought back early nineties rappers Snoop Dogg, and Dre Dre. Their number one hit, The Next Episode(Billboard. com). With its funky Rap beats, the song welcomed back the duo and addresses marijuana as a way of life, and an example of their lives on the streets of Compton. The song was primarily intended for a lower sociological culture that lives the everyday hustle of street, and gang life.

It appealed to a younger crowd because of its fun, carefree lyrics. Rap music is known for its substance abuse messages in songs, and many praise the illegal use of marijuana. With drug referenced lyrics being more severe and more popular than ever, in 2011 famous rap stars Whiz Khalifa, and Snoop Dogg teamed up with current pop mega star Bruno Mars and released Young, and Wild and Free. Appealing to younger generation and the wide consumer of popular music, the lyrics promotes the uses of alcohol and marijuana because you’re still young.

The songs’s lyrics are a description of day upon day smoking weed and getting drunk, and not caring who knows about it because they’re young and it doesn’t matter. It is not like the early sixties innuendo’s of drug use. It’s loud and in your face, and very descriptive. In a 2007 USNews. com report, a group of researchers found that in 2005, 37 percent of top country songs featured references to drugs or alcohol, compared to just 14 percent of rock songs. Rap songs however, took the lead with 77 percent of songs containing positive influences of drugs or alcohol (Dotinga,2007).

The problem at this point in society is, there is no way of knowing if music in popular culture are influencing today’s youth, or if today’s youth are influencing music in popular culture. An article from ABC news, in 2007 gave the same statistics. Also, the article claimed that First of all, there is a positive portrayal of the substance, either linking it to financial success, social acceptance or sexual desirability (Williams 2007). Secondly, it is presented in a memorable form. Songs function in the same manner as a jingle you might find in commercials as in the case of songs like Semi Charmed Life, and The Next Episode.

Only this article took another approach stating that the influence of a young adult is more likely the crowd it surrounds itself with, rather than the music of popular culture. In a study done by the American Academy of Pediatrics to understand the importance of music in the life of adolescents, a survey performed in the early 1990s of 2760 American adolescents aged 14 through 16 years revealed that they listened to music an average of 40 hours per week (Impact of Music, Music Lyrics, and Music Videos on Children and Youth,2009} With this being said, popular music is consumed by youth for as long as most adults work through a week’s time.

This is a huge number and helps American’s realize how much time a young adults spends consuming lyrics and their messages about drugs. However, the question still remains, does youth reflect music in popular culture, or does youth in popular culture reflect popular music.

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