Heroin (Diacetylmorphine), a semi-synthetic narcotic derived from morphine, was created in 1847 by a chemist at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London and used as a cold medication for children. The drug was marketed as a remedy for tuberculosis, laryngitis, and coughs and later touted as a potential cure for morphine addiction
Heroin was erroneously thought to be ‘non-addictive’ and in 1906, the American Medical Association recommended that it be used in place of morphine. But in 1913 an outbreak of
The connection between heroin and the black community remains a disturbing commentary. The following is a sampling of songs describing the horror of drugs, told through the unique lens of black songwriters and musicians.
A Baltimore Love Thing (2005). Curtis James Jackson a.k.a. “50
Barre Baby (2000). From Houston rapper Big Moe’s initial album, City of Syrup, here is another ode to the culture of sipping “purple drank.” On the tune “Barre Baby” Moe uses a chorus of children singing in determined voices, “Barre baby / the Barre baby,” over disjointed strings that punctuate Moe’s global proclamation, “Now I got the whole world sippin’ drank with me.’” Purple drank, a mixture of Prometh cough syrup and
Beware of the Man (With the Candy in His Hands) (1974). Recorded by The Dramatics on their LP A Dramatic Experience, this was among the anti-drug commentary written and produced by Tony Hester, a drug-addict and close friend of the group. “Beware of the Man (With the Candy in His Hand)” has its “odd monster/pusher sentiment only redeemed by Tony Hester’s great and innovative production,” according to Jason Elias’ All Music Guide.
Cloud Nine (1968). Motown’s in-house songwriters Barrett Strong and Norman
Junker’s Blues (1940). Champion Jack Dupree’s song, steeped in the blues tradition, appears to be a family affair. He sings, “My brother used the needle/ and my sister sniffed cocaine/ I don’t use no junk /I’m the nicest boy you’ve ever seen.” The song mentions the notorious Angola prison farm in Louisiana but does not mention the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 that treated heroin addicts as criminals and swiftly incarcerated them.
King Heroin (1972). James Brown was able to transition from song and dance man to political activist. In “King Heroin,” Brown delivered a political speech to his constituents wrapped around social commentary and a strong anti-heroin message. Although lacking in slick metaphors and prose, the song is straight forward and to the point in its realism. In a mix of soulful jazz and
Move That Dope (2014). Crafted by American rapper Future, this slick, well-produced song features guest verses by Pharrell Williams, Pusha T
Pusher Man (1972). Introducing himself as “your pusher man,” Curtis Mayfield deals his lyrical dope in this well written, percussion-laden urban scenario. “Two bags, please/ For a generous fee/ Make your world What you want it to be,” he suggests. The song was included in the Superfly soundtrack along with Mayfield compositions “Freddie’s Dead” and “Superfly.”
Signed D.C. (1966). Love, the Los Angeles’ 1960s psychedelic band, spoke from experience. As many as three of the band members, including group leader Arthur Lee, were believed to have been heroin addicts. In “Signed D.C.,” songwriter Lee speaks of the fear and alienation brought on by the drug: “Sometimes I feel so lonely/ My comedown I’m scared to face/ I’ve pierced my skin again; Lord/ No one cares for me.”
Sippin On Some Sizzurp (2000). Three 6 Mafia’s song sold over one million records as it promoted “purple stuff” to a mainstream audience. The song is one of
The Devil is Dope (1973). Detroit’s Dramatics
The devastating connection between heroin and the black community remains with us today. According to The Washington Post
Heroin laced with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl has killed thousands of…drug users in the past several years, driving a largely overlooked urban public-health crisis. Since 2014, the national rate of fatal drug overdoses has increased more than twice as fast among African Americans as among whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But an article titled ‘Whites
According to some studies, whites do significantly more drugs, including crack, than Blacks. Yet, the Black man has been made the face of
If Lewis is correct, there is much work to be done on additional fronts. Hopefully, songs such as the aforementioned, will promote the culture of recovery, rather than the culture of addiction, and offer a much-needed optimism for those still suffering, regardless of skin color
Learn more at www.shepptonmyth.com