Celebrating the Connection Between Jazz and Cannabis

Jazz and Cannabis. They go together and make each better.

Louis Armstrong: just the name evokes the image of a dark, smoky dance hall filled with classic jazzy trumpeting tunes tinged with nostalgia. Known fondly as “Satchmo” and “Pops,” Louis Armstrong is instantly recognizable for his unmistakable gravelly voice and unique trumpet-playing. He rose to prominence in the 1920’s, one of the first African-American musicians to cross the line into popularity and influence not only jazz music, but popular culture in general.

Louis Armstrong first tried cannabis in the 1920’s and used it throughout his career, including before performances and recordings. He referred to cannabis affectionately as “the gage,“ a common parlance of the times.

“We did call ourselves the Vipers, which could have been anybody from all walks of life that smoked and respected the gage,” he said when describing his relationship with cannabis to biographer Max Jones.

It is said that the jazz instrumental song “Muggles” was influenced by cannabis. Before muggles popped up in popular culture thanks to one Ms. J.K. Rowling, the term “muggles” or “mugs” was a term often used by jazz musicians to refer to cannabis.

Unlike booze, which dulled and incapacitated, cannabis enabled musicians whose job required them to play long into the night to forget their exhaustion. Moreover, the weed seemed to make their music sound more imaginative and unique, at least to those who played and listened to it while under its sensorial influence.

In the 1930s, “reefer” songs were the rage of the jazz world. Distinctive and characteristic, it was music written and played by black musicians for black audiences. The music had a special feeling. It was a tangible medium through which minority experiences could be shared by large numbers of people dispersed throughout the country. It gave musicians and their audiences a sense of solidarity.

Today, music and cannabis are inseparable, both for many musicians and their grateful listeners.



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