Four Twenty Fun: Dance Party Playlist

Posted on April 20, 2021

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It’s 4/20, and the dance floor is open! The Selector is here with a dance party playlist.

When I was in kindergarten in 1969, I liked to sing this little ditty while flying high on the swings. My teen siblings introduced me to the song. I’ve always appreciated Bob Dylan as a lyricist, and “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” is the first 4/20 anthem I learned, so it has to open the set. It’s not really a dance tune, but it’s good for wiggling around and limbering up before we get down.

Since I’m using a personal history lens, the second oldest artifact in this museum has to be Peter Tosh’s “Legalize It,” the International Cannabis Anthem, from his 1976 debut album by the same name. I was twelve in 1976, and my best friend’s older brother wrote in my yearbook, “Marijuana, booze, and chicks: that’s the Class of ’76!” I consider him a brother to this day! Party on, poet!

When another friend’s older brother offered to “smoke a bowl” with us that year, I decided to try it, but on the car ride to the party pad, I kept wondering, “Bowl? Like a soup bowl? Mixing bowl? OR That giant, yellow Tupperware that Mom uses to carry two whole pies in? What type of bowl?”

I soon began to learn some Canna-vocab, and I would come to take great delight in making up code, so that my friends and I could freely discuss our plans around the uninitiated. One key canna-phrase that everyone recognizes is “Pass the Dutchie,” and this 1982 song by Musical Youth came out my senior year of high school and was on my very first reggae cassette tape. I love this groove, and remember, “Music happens to be the food of love.”

Of course, Canna culture was illegal, so encounters with the police were a threat, as portrayed in this classic by Yellowman, “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt,” which illustrates abuse of power by police. It’s as relevant and danceable now as it was when I heard it in the ’80s.

Worrying about the cops goes WAY back in Canna culture. In 1938, Fats Waller released “If You’re a Viper,” which opens with the lines,

here we are in Harlem!

Everybody’s here but the police,

and they’ll be here any minute!

It’s HIGH time so catch this song, here it ’tis…

A couple of my favorite Uncles might have heard this song in their youth; if they did, they would've sung and viped along. They lived in Kansas. One time, several of my Aunts and Uncles from Kansas came to visit. One vivid memory I have of their time with my family in Michigan is when they came in late after a night out and woke me up with singing, laughing, and the indignant shouts of an aunt who had been the target of another one of their silly pranks. Good times. 

Another funny Kansas-related memory I have is that my cousin, Les, gave me a pale yellow tee shirt with a sparkly Cannabis leaf on it. He said I could wear it for the school year and bring it back the next summer, when my family made our yearly pilgrimage to Mom's homeland. I wore it openly for the school year, thinking that since the elders didn't comment on it, they were fine with it. Around May, my sister asked Mom, "Mom! Why are you allowing lisa to wear a shirt with a pot leaf on it?"

Mom was stunned."Pot leaf?!?! I thought that was a picture of wheat, because she brought that shirt home from Kansas!" 

Shout out to the elders and ancestors! (And cousin Les.)

Now that we've brought the tempo down a bit, let's ease into a mid-1990s Canna athem from Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, "Burn One Down," a mellow groove with a killer Djembe solo and a cry for freedom to enjoy the simple pleasures of life with friends. Shout out and BIG LOVE to the friend who turned me on to Ben Harper and this song when they joined the Cannabis culture back then. 

"This is your official invitation to conscious party!" Ziggy Marley shouts at the opening of "Conscious Party," from the 1988 release by the same name with the Melody Makers, which "Makes one want to get up and dance. I said we're jammin' on this love and chant. Everyone is happy tonight..." 

Keeping the positive vibe flowing, let's honor another ancestor, Bob Marley, whose "Three Little Birds," is an irresistible groove and a tune that has brought comfort and hope to generations. 

It's a holiday! We just wanna dance! Let's celebrate life with two queens of the dance floor, Calypso Rose and Angelique Kidjo, who "Wah Fu Dance!" I've been dancing with Angelique for decades, but I just discovered Rose about a year ago. Shout out to these two beautiful grandmothers of groove! 

I hope this playlist gives you a laugh and gets you to dance. Dance is an integral part of my mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social health. I can't wait for the day when we can all meet on the grass in front of a live band, dance, hug, and puff with abandon. Until then, happy holidays! 

You can find the entire playlist for this dance party at this link. Have a great day. Party on! 

"Skankin' Sweet" by Chronixx is the perfect finale for this set. The lyrics reiterate my goal: "Everybody wanna feel irie; forget your troubles and dance with me..." 

Be well, friend. Thanks for reading. 


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lisa eddy is a writer and editor for-hire, researcher, educator-for-hire, youth advocate,  musician, and gardener.
On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

On email: lisagay.eddy1@gmail.com
Posted in: dance, Music, Wellness