Almost a century ago a man by the name of Henry Angslinger put forth the notion that “weed leads to jazz.” A lovely thought if you didn’t know Mr. Angslinger’s true motives.
Angslinger wasn’t referring to the artistic beauty a stoned person hears in jazz. The racist was spewing racist notions of both weed and jazz music. What a boob Mr. Anslinger was. It’s too bad the people at the time believed his racist nonsense.
But the 1930’s was a time of vulgar prejudices. Jazz and weed were akin to satanic practices from the bowels of hell. As long as marijuana and jazz existed white women’s virtue wasn’t safe.
Racist propaganda touted Marijuana as the devil’s weed. The Mexicans and blacks were responsible. Ansingler would wage a war on drugs to rid the earth of the devil’s influence. Jazz was the devil’s music and marijuana was the spell.
Jazz started somewhere during the early part of the 20th century. Its birthplace is believed to be the city of New Orleans. New Orleans was a cosmopolitan city where blacks had the opportunity to take part in public life. A strange notion for the time.
Musicians combined their musical styles. Doing so they created a unique style of music often called “swing”. Swing and jazz, interchangeable terms, was meant for dancing. It was wild, energetic and fun. The youth loved it.
Jazz was catching on at a fast pace. Musicians were becoming known for their music and marijuana use.
Jazz musicians used as much marijuana as they could inhale. They passed joints on stage and behind the curtain. The joint even came to be called the “jazz cigarette.”
Smoking weed became a part of the jazz musician’s lifestyle.
The very first jazz musician to get caught with marijuana was Louis Armstrong, the great “Satchmo”.
In 1931, Armstrong got caught with a spliff in the Culver City Cotton Club. By that time the ban on cannabis was already in effect. Armstrong spent more than a week in jail for the joint. Then he went back to jazz and Mary Jane.
Jazz would become known as satanic music. In the 1930’s the chief of the Federal Bureau of narcotics issued a statement to warn the public of the dangers associated with marijuana and jazz.
“Their Satanic music; jazz and swing, results from marijuana use and causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes and entertainers.”
The statement was intended to invoke fear of both marijuana and jazz.
Satan’s weed leads a person to Satan’s music. Next comes the seduction by Satan himself. And finally you lose your soul. But people were feeling great listening to jazz.
The reality of the situation was jazz music made sense to the cannabis user. The music was new and fun and fresh. People liked jazz. The cannabis made the music sound even better.
Now researchers understand the opioid system in the human brain is responsible for musical enjoyment.
Music has grown into today’s genres. And lots of the modern music genres wouldn’t exist without the birth and development of jazz music.
In an ironic twist today jazz can be heard in elite circles. Go for dinner and dance at the club and you’ll hear jazz. Turn on some hip-hop and you’ll hear Jazz. Jazz was a necessary part of the evolution of music.
Had jazz been prohibited people would have still played it. Just goes to show how foolish fear and ignorance really are. The fact is ignorance and fear are connected.
Promote research, study and the want for knowledge.
The war should be on ignorance. Not marijuana.