'I Like Marijuana' Singer David Peel Dead at 74

By Keri Blakinger 04/12/17

The popular pro-pot singer was known for his affiliation with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who he met in the early '70s in Greenwich Village.

Image: 
David Peel
David Peel Photo via YouTube

David Peel, the hippie singer behind the stoner anthem “I Like Marijuana,” died last week in New York City. He was 74. His death was caused by complications following a heart attack, a former bandmate told the New York Times.

Peel, whose real name was David Rosario, flooded the early 1970s with weed-happy tunes like “I Like Marijuana,” “Here Comes a Cop” and “I’ve Got Some Grass.”

Aside from his hippie-friendly hits, Peel was known for his affiliation with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who he met in the early 1970s in Greenwich Village, according to Billboard

"It was arranged for us to meet him, but it seemed like a happening," Lennon said of that first meeting, according to biographer Ray Coleman. "And he was suddenly there and we started singing with him in the street. And we got moved on by the police, and it was all very wonderful. That was it. He was such a great guy, you know. We loved his music and his spirit and everything. His whole philosophy of street and everything."

In '70s, Peel signed to The Beatles’ Apple Records and put out a controversially titled album, The Pope Smokes Dope. The release peaked at 191 on the Billboard charts, five places lower than where Have a Marijuana spiked at three years earlier. 

His music typically did not require much singing talent, as even his supporters acknowledged. “People say, ‘Oh, Peel, he can’t sing and he can’t play,’” Lennon said on The David Frost Show in 1971. “But David Peel is a natural, and some of his melodies are good.”

In 2012, he was back in the news for his involvement in Occupy Wall Street. “Not many of them know who I was, because it’s a new generation,” he said of his fellow protesters. He penned a few new songs for Occupy, including “Up Against the Wall Street” and “Mic Check, No Check.”

“If you want to win the movement, you must have music, the way John Lennon gave us ‘Give Peace a Chance’ for the hippie movement,” he told the New York Times

Although he was best known for his counterculture affiliations, the Brooklyn native served in the Army in the mid-1960s before becoming a New York City street music staple. He never married, had no children, and got by mostly on royalties and gig fees. His last album release in 2015 was titled Give Hemp a Chance.

Five years before his death he said he planned to keep singing on the streets “until the day I drop dead and go to rock ’n’ roll heaven.”

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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