Another star has vanished. David Peel, the longtime marijuana activist and counterculture icon, died on Thursday, April 6th in Manhattan from a heart attack. He was 73.
David Peel was the quintessential hippie. He taught a generation of young people how to resist a culture that didn't identify with free love, freedom of expression, and world peace. He wasn't afraid to speak out on the hypocrisy of the issues of his time. His songs about the Vietnam War and marijuana prohibition became the battle cries of a generation in revolt, and he was one of the few leading the charge.
David Peel was a true New Yorker. Born David Rosaria, the young musician got his start in the late 1960s on the streets of the city. He and his band, the Lower East Side, would play on street corners and in parks, creating spectacles of themselves while singing about how much they loved weed.
Have a Marijuana, David Peel and the Lower East Side's 1968 debut record, was recorded on the very streets where they performed and produced the group's most notorious single, "I Like Marijuana". A hilarious hippie jam, this song has become THE stoner anthem for marijuana users worldwide.
In 1970, Peel and his band released their debut studio album, The American Revolution, on Elektra Records. While this record continued Peel's marijuana advocacy on tracks like "Legalize Marijuana" and "I Want to Get High", this record also saw Peel delve into the highly turbulent anti-war sentiments popular in youth culture at the time. With tracks like "I Want to Kill You" and "Hey, Mr. Draft Board", Peel helped politicize the marijuana reform movement to unite and create what we know as the hippie movement today.
Peel's big break came in 1971, when John Lennon and Yoko Ono discovered his amateurish talent while performing at Union Square Park. John Lennon actually describes the moment they met on his song "New York City". The two fell in love with each other right away. Lennon went on to produce Peel's 1971 album, The Pope Smokes Dope, which was released on Lennon's Apple Records. There's a hilarious performance on the David Frost Show in 1971 of David Peel and the Lower East Side with John and Yoko. See if you can spot the famous couple.
Peel continued to be a counterculture icon throughout the 70s and 80s while also continuing his advocacy for marijuana. He was even sighted numerous times at Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street protests, singing his old protest tunes to the young crowds. He died knowing that his advocacy in the 60s and 70s were the some of the first blows against the stigmatization of marijuana. Marijuana users and the marijuana industry will forever be in debt to the revolution this hippie from New York helped create.
Now check out the best songs to listen to when you're high!