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Jack, I'm Mellow

Shelton digs up head music from the vault

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Here we are again, with another installment of the always-popular litany of songs about cannabis (there must be hundreds by now).

 

Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley featuring Stephen Marley, “Medication”

The list of weed anthems written by the great Bob Marley (1945-1981) could easily fill this space several times over, and we’ve not included anything by him yet because that would be too obvious. But let’s take a look instead at a rare collaboration between two of his (at least) 12 children, Damian and Stephen. The video for this 2017 track opens with testimony from several medical marijuana patients, while the brothers tour a prison facility—which, sadly, is where too many patients have been relegated. They proceed to serenade the stuff like it was a lover, a trope borrowed from their father.

 

Macka B, “Medical Marijuana Card”

One of my favorite YouTube channels belongs to Macka B, born Christopher MacFarlane in 1966. The veteran British-Jamaican dancehall toaster is best known for his work with the Mad Professor, but in recent years he’s carved out a delightful side hustle as a sort of nutritional guru. Every week he posts videos for “Medical Monday” and “Wha Me Eat Wednesday,” brief rhyming odes to obscure herbs and fruits he uses as part of his vegan Ital diet. This particular ditty was inspired by a California trip, where the ease of herb access had him briefly consider immigrating to the U.S.
(I’m sure the president is glad he didn’t.)

 

Ronald Reggae, “Jamaican Rhapsody”

This pun-laden take on Queen’s 1975 classic is the best kind of silliness, and it actually holds up if you don’t goof too hard on the source material. (The “Marcus Garvey” chant in the middle section elicited a rare solo spit-take.) Humor aside, it does offer a nice encapsulation of the Rasta perspective on cannabis and the ridiculous laws associated with it.

 

As always, our readers come in handy with interesting suggestions. Jazz singer and pianist Kelly Green, a local product currently tearing it up in the Big Apple, offers up a number from her own repertoire, “Hit That Jive, Jack” by Skeets Tolbert (1909-2000). Pioneering bebop drummer Kenny “Klook” Clarke got his start with Tolbert’s “Gentlemen of Swing” band back in 1939, but had taken his sticks elsewhere by the time this song was recorded in December 1940.

You may recall Brandon Strader, the radio caller who was featured in last week’s Folio Weed column. Strader dug deep into the archives to offer a gem from 1938: Trixie Smith’s “Jack, I’m Mellow.” Eight decades after it was first recorded, her contribution to the genre is finally gaining recognition by the public at large as part of the soundtrack to NetFlix’s cannabis doc, Disjointed. A sadly underrated performer in the Roaring ’20s, Smith (1895-1943) worked Vaudeville, Harlem and the early Chitlin Circuit, recording with top talents like James P. Johnson, Frankie Keppard, Fletcher Henderson, Red Allen, Barney Bigard and the gawd himself, Sidney Bechet. She’s also credited with using the phrase “rock and roll” on a mainstream record, way back in 1922. “Jack, I’m Mellow” was recorded more than 20 years into her career, and just five away from her early death, but you can’t tell from the freshness and joy that radiates through her vocals.

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