; About Marijuana?

Is Puff the Magic Dragon About Marijuana?

Is Puff the Magic Dragon About Marijuana?

Puff the Magic Dragon is what its writers have always claimed it to be: a song about the innocence of childhood lost.

The Peter, Paul & Mary tune Puff, the Magic Dragon is a coded song about marijuana.

The poem that formed the basis of the song Puff, the Magic Dragon was written in 1959 by Leonard Lipton, a nineteen-year-old Cornell student. Lipton was inspired by an Ogden Nash rhyme about aReally-OTruly-ODragon, and, using a dragon as the central figure, he came up with a poem about the end of childhood innocence. Lipton passed his work along to a friend, fellow Cornell student (and folk music enthusiast) Peter Yarrow, who put a melody to the words and wrote additional lyrics to create the song Puff, the Magic Dragon. After Yarrow teamed up with Mary Travers and Paul Stookey in 1961 to form Peter, Paul & Mary, the trio performed the song in live shows, and their 1962 recording of Puff reached 2 on theBillboardcharts in early 1963.

The 1960s being what they were, however, any song based on oblique or allegorical lyrics was subject to reinterpretation as a drug song, and so it was with Puff, the Magic Dragon. Puff was an obvious name for a song about smoking pot; little Jackie Papers surname referred to rolling papers; autumn mist was either clouds of marijuana smoke or a drug-induced state; the land of Hanah Lee was really the Hawaiian village of Hanalei, known for its particularly potent marijuana plants; and so on. But as Peter Yarrow demonstrated in countless concert performances,anysong even The Star-Spangled Banner could be interpreted as a drug song.

Here is what the people who created and popularized the song have said about it:

[Puff is about] loss of innocence, and having to face an adult world. Its surely not about drugs. I can tell you that at Cornell in 1959,no onesmoked grass. I find the fact that people interpret it as a drug song annoying. It would be insidious to propagandize about drugs in a song for little kids.

As the principal writer of the song, I can assure you its a song about innocence lost. Its easier to interpret The Star-Spangled Banner as a drug song than Puff, the Magic Dragon. This is just a funny rumor that was promulgated byNewsweekmagazine [who ran a cover story about covert drug messages in pop music]. There is no basis for it. Its inane at this point and really unfortunate, because even in Hong Kong its not played because of the allegation its about drugs. But I assure you its not.

When Puff was written, I was too innocent to know about drugs. What kind of a meanspirited SOB would write a childrens song with a covert drug message?

Peter wrote the song in 1958 [sic], and it is not about marijuana. Believe me, if he wanted to write a song about marijuana, he would have written a song about marijuana.

Hoffman, Ken.   BBC Includes Houston in Future of Cities Program.

The Houston Chronicle.15 September 1995   (p. 2).

Garnick, Darren.The Jerusalem Report.

Matthews, Lynn.   Premier Folk Trio Takes Jet Plane to Portland.

The Columbian.17 March 1995   (p. D11).

Ruhlman, William.   Peter, Paul and Mary: The Early Years.

Shannon, Bob and John Javna.Behind the Hits.

New York: Warner Books, 1986.   ISBN 0-446-38937-4   (pp. 238-239).

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