A lesser star of Woodstock than Jimi Hendrix, but one who was in the ascendant, was Sly Stone, whose inspirational performance resulted in two tracks on the live album, including the anthemic I Want To Take You Higher, which insinuated Sly & The Family Stone into white middle class homes across America and beyond. Sly was brought up in the Bay Area and had hung out in the Haight during the crucial period before coming out with an infectious style of dance music with optimistic, politically-conscious lyrics that he declared to be 'a whole new thing'.
Sly Stone was one of the key innovators of funk, the style of black dance music perpetrated by James Brown and characterised by a rhythmic sensibility that is implicitly informed by cannabis. The etymology of 'funk' is opaque. It's English dictionary meaning, 'fear', may provide a clue to the title of James Brown's classic, In A Cold Sweat, but its received meaning referred first to smell and later to style. Could it be that the term was coined to describe music that evoked the atmosphere of a hot and sweaty room, crowded with dancers and sweet with the smell of pot smoke?
The funk flag was flown most prominently throughout the seventies by Parliament, led by George Clinton, who had their first top ten hit on Billboard magazine's Black Music Chart in 1974 and peaked in 1978, when Parliament scored two number 1 hits with Flashlight and Aquaboogie in the same year that Clinton's other group, Funkadelic, had a world-wide hit with One Nation Under A Groove. While the lyrics of these songs may not refer specifically to cannabis (unlike other Clintonic titles such as Pot Smokin' Tots, or Munchies For Your Love) there's small doubt that it was pot that put the P in Clinton's own special brand of music, P-Funk.
Put simply, the P is the best of anything; P-Funk is the purest form of funk - uncut funk - also known as 'the bomb'. The P represents a state of mind, an alternative reality, and if the stoned subtext of these songs eludes you, well, you may be irredeemably lost in the zone of zero funkativity. Clinton created a universe of his own over a series of albums like Chocolate City, the title track of which postulated an alternative government with Mohammed Ali as President, Aretha Franklin as First Lady and Stevie Wonder, Secretary of Fine Art
Little Stevie, who had his first hit at the age of 14 with Fingertips, is acclaimed as the leading songwriter of his generation. He was introduced to pot by his fellow musicians on the Motown Revue and, before long, had dropped the 'Little' tag and was producing records with titles like Music Of My Mind and writing THC-enhanced tunes with far out lyrics, like Too High, the opening track of his 1973 album, Innervisions:
She's a girl in a dream
She sees a four-eyed cartoon monster
On the TV screen.
She takes another puff and says
"It's a crazy scene"
That red is green
And she's a tangerine.