Have you ever been singing along to your favorite song when the lyrics start to come into focus for you? You may be shocked at how many of your favorite tunes are songs about drugs, with the artist describing a drug trip or battling substance abuse. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular songs about drugs and alcohol.
Hidden Messages: 6 Songs About Drugs
1. ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ — The Beatles
The Beatles came to fame during a time when drugs were widely used by younger generations, as the dangers of substance abuse weren’t well-known. “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” was released on the Beatles’ 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” and the public quickly realized the initials of the song title were LSD. This title, combined with the song’s imaginative imagery (“Rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies, everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers”), inspired speculation that the song was about a drug trip.
John Lennon denied that the song was about drugs, saying it was inspired by a school drawing his son Julian made. Still, it’s not surprising that people made a connection between the song and LSD — the same month the album was released, McCartney admitted to trying the drug in two separate interviews.
2. ‘Under the Bridge’ — Red Hot Chili Peppers
American rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers released the song “Under the Bridge” on their “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” album. Their vocalist, Anthony Kiedis, wrote the song and almost didn’t share it with the band to record. This is because the song was Kiedis’ reflection on how lonely he was feeling since he had gotten clean from drugs and the rest of the band hadn’t.
You may have listened to the song and not realized it’s one of several songs about heroin. Kiedis struggled with a heroin and cocaine addiction for years before getting clean. When he wrote this song, he had been clean for about 3 years, but his bandmates continued to smoke marijuana together, which distanced Kiedis from them. The song lyrics speak to his struggle at this time: “Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a partner. Sometimes I feel like my only friend.”
3. ‘Purple Pills’ — D12
D12 was a rap and hip-hop group composed of Eminem, Proof, Bizarre, Mr. Porter, Kuniva and Swifty McVay. “Purple Pills” was released on the group’s debut album and definitely earns its spot on a list of songs about drug use. The lyrics mention “purple pills, golden seals, uppers, downers and Mushroom Mountain.” Notably, Eminem has shared his struggles with prescription pill abuse, so his rapping about taking “uppers and downers” was from personal experience.
4. ‘White Rabbit’ — Jefferson Airplane
“White Rabbit” was a song recorded by rock band Jefferson Airplane on their 1967 album “Surrealistic Pillow.” The song was written by Grace Slick, who was said to have used the imagery from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” as inspiration for the lyrics. In an interview, Slick talked about how the children’s story was about drug use, saying, “She gets literally high, too big for the room. Drink me! The caterpillar is sitting on a psychedelic mushroom smoking opium!”
The 60s was a time when many young people began experimenting with substances. Slick wrote “White Rabbit” to point out the hypocrisy of parents who warn their kids about the dangers of substances, then read their children stories with undertones of drug abuse.
5. ‘We Found Love’ — Rihanna and Calvin Harris
Pop singer Rihanna released “We Found Love” with DJ Calvin Harris on her sixth album, “Talk That Talk,” and it quickly gained massive success. If you listen to it, you may think it’s simply a love song. But when the music video was released, it told the song’s true story: Rihanna and her partner struggle with substance abuse, eventually leading to domestic violence and addiction.
6. ‘Cocaine’ — Eric Clapton
When a song is called “Cocaine,” there’s no question as to what it’s about. Singer Eric Clapton released a version of J.J. Cale’s song “Cocaine” on his 1977 album “Slowhand.” However, Clapton has said that the song is incredibly anti-drug, as the lyrics talk about the downside of cocaine use. Lyrics such as “Don’t forget this fact, you can’t get it back” are meant to warn listeners of the risk of destructive addiction.
Of course, this is just a short list of the many songs out there about drug and alcohol use. There are songs about crack (“Move That Dope” by Future featuring Pharrell, Pusha T & Casino) and alcohol addiction (“Whiskey Lullaby” by Brad Paisley). You’ll be surprised by how many of the songs you hear on the radio talk about substances.
Exploring the Impact of Drug Use in Song Lyrics
Drug use should never be glamorized, as it comes with many dangerous side effects and the risk of addiction, health complications and even death. Language is a powerful tool, and when artists casually sing about using drugs, it can give listeners the perception that drug use is common and doesn’t come with consequences.
Many fans, especially young fans, look up to artists and want to copy their actions and behaviors. If an artist releases a song about how wonderful a specific drug can make you feel, it can influence fans to go out and try that drug themselves. Alternatively, when artists release songs that tell of the dangers of addiction, it can help people understand the consequences of substance abuse.
Artists must understand the impact their songs can have. Musicians are role models, and with that comes a level of responsibility. If an artist releases a song about drug use, they can try to mitigate this message by clarifying in interviews that they don’t condone substance abuse.
Professional Help Is Available
Many artists who’ve released songs about their addiction have also had a successful recovery. For example, Eminem was able to treat his prescription pill addiction, and David Bowie received help for his cocaine addiction.
These are just a few examples of how professional rehabilitation programs can help those struggling with drug addiction. Substance abuse addiction is serious, but it’s treatable.