Ray Charles was no stranger to the perils of marijuana prohibition. The father of soul music - who passed away 12 years ago today - was busted twice for possessing marijuana (in 1961 and 1964). So it's no surprise that people assumed his bluesy 1966 hit "Let's Go Get Stoned" was about smoking a joint. Tom Barnes of Mic has even suggested turning the tune into a legalization anthem.
But is it actually about cannabis?
Nowadays, the word "stoned" is synonymous with getting high. But back when the song was written, it could also mean being drunk. And that seems to be what the song's about since it doesn't make any reference to bongs, pipes or joints. But the lyrics do mention liquor,
When your baby won't let you in
Got a few pennies, a bottle of gin
Just call your buddy on the telephone
Let's go get stoned.
According to pop culture lore, the writers - the same duo of hit makers who wrote tunes for Marvin Gaye and The Supremes - thought up "Let's Go Get Stoned" when they decided to get a drink after a hard, fruitless day of songwriting.
Even though the tune is about drinking, it still has a cannabis connection. Charles' version of the song influenced Bob Dylan's (alleged) stoner anthem, according to biographers Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon. In their book Bob Dylan, All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track (2015), they claim that Dylan was inspired to write "Rainy Day Women #12 and #35" after he and Phil Spector heard "Let's Go Get Stoned" playing on a jukebox in Los Angeles.
Charles himself also has a strain named after him. According to Leafly, "Ray Charles" is a potent indica that will "lull you into rest and relaxation like the sweet voice of The Genius himself. For this reason, Ray Charles is best reserved for bedtime or late-night unwinding."
And if you're able to pick up a few grams of it, put this on right before blazing.