Believe it or not John Kay - the frontman for the psychedelic rock group Steppenwolf - advocated for marijuana legalization during his band's heyday in the late 1960s. In fact, the husky-voiced singer - who turns 73 today - was such a big fan of cannabis that he wrote the anti-prohibition anthem 'Don't Step on the Grass, Sam' for Steppenwolf's sophomore album 'The Second' (1968).
The 'Sam' mentioned in the title refers to Uncle Sam, of course - the personification of the American government made famous by the I Want You recruitment posters. In the song, Kay alternates between ridiculing and impersonating Sam as he tries to justify the federal government's anti-cannabis policy by preaching the bogus gateway drug theory.
"Well, it it will hook your Sue and Johnny," Kay sings as Uncle Sam. The rest of the band sings back, "You're so full of bull, Sam."
The song also reflects on the taxpayer money wasted on enforcing pot prohibition and the lives ruined by mass incarcerations for non-violent cannabis offences.
"You waste my coin Sam, all you can to jail my fellow man for smoking all the noble weed," Kay sings. "You've been telling lies so long, some believe they're true. So they close their eyes to things you have no right to do."
Kay also refers to marijuana as "the finest of grasses" in the song. And if you think that's a bit over-the-top, wait for the ending. Instead of fading out, the music comes to an abrupt halt thanks to a fake marijuana raid in the recording studio. After pounding on the door, a group of actors playing policemen storm in saying, "Alright you guys, you're under arrest for possession of marijuana."
But the band thwarts the bust. The last noise heard on the track is a flushing toilet that suggests Steppenwolf escaped to smoke another day (but their stash wasn't so lucky).