No matter how much the world keeps complaining about cigarette smoking and all the world’s ill effects that lighting one up can do, there is a very deep connection between the slow burning tobacco stick from the heavens and creative energy. A cigarette makes you light-headed, helps you float about and brings a sense of calm and ease in an otherwise painful situation.
This is probably why some of the biggest names in the world of music have sung their songs with a sweet reference to a cigarette. It’s like a friend. Sometimes, you are angry at your cigarette, sometimes, you just give into it. Sometimes, you are desperate for it and on others, it is taken for granted. Let us look at some of the most memorable numbers mentioning cigarettes and the context in which they have been used.
I have to begin with him. A legend in his own right sings “Stranger in the Crowd”. His song just makes it clear that while waiting, the best thing to do is to pull out and light one. The specific lyrics where he mentions cigarettes is “I’ve been standing on a corner / Since a quarter after seven / I was down to my last cigarette / And the clock in the window / At a quarter to eleven”!
The one point in this song where I connect the most with him is when the King himself describes the paper. Like feeling which is quite unusual and inexplicable when you have only one cigarette left in your box. No matter how much more you can buy when there’s only one left in the box, there’s a strange sense of horror in your mind.
If you listen to music of any kind, you know Bob Dylan and his eccentric taste in choosing lyrics to convey emotions or even situations. He is big on metaphors, but having said that, sometimes his lyrics are too basic and literal. I had a hard time understanding what he meant in the lyrics “He just smoked my eyelids and punched my cigarette”. Was he trying to give a literal image of a guy blowing smoke over someone’s eyes or is he pointing out at human nature? Where would one not consider how the other feels as a result of his own actions? I am yet to get around what smoking someone’s eyelashes could possibly mean, but it sure did sound great in the song “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again”.
I am particularly biased towards this artist and his portrayal of ethereal and sensitive subjects with bold tangible objects. The name of the song is “Sunday Behavior” where he mostly speaks about a nostalgic recount of the time. When he fell off the wagon before he took the reins of his own life in his own hands for his love of June Carter. The words are brutally honest. When you have had one too many smokes and your tongue tastes like ash, you do agree with Cash when he says “I’d smoked my mind the night before / With cigarettes and songs I’d been picking”. This song for me is a one for lonely nights where I smoke to my heart’s content listening to Cash and thinking of all the people who at that moment are doing the same.
In the song, “Jesus, etc.”, Wilco describes the singular feeling of limited freedom when a person smokes his last cigarette of the day. “Last cigarettes are all you can get / Turn your orbit around”. Although another day is going to bring many more sticks on your way. But when you smoke your last before you end your day, it symbolizes something. It stands for the few minutes of light headed defiance and freedom that you have left with you just before the cycle of another day hits you in the face.
Although there are hundreds and hundreds of songs that mention cigarettes and use it as a metaphor. These are the few ones that I absolutely love and can’t think of taking a smoke without.