sung by Dave Van Ronk
In the middle of all the Cocaine research, I remembered this song, and so all that studying I’ve been doing has a back story, which often happens when I get into researching. It takes off in different directions, sometimes twists and turns. So, here’s a little twist.
Saw him sing that at the Bamboo Room in Lake Worth, not too long before he died.
Van Ronk got the song from Reverend Gary Davis, who said he learned it in 1905 from a carnival musician, Porter Irving.
One of the people I interviewed about drug treatment for the story I’m working on, shared with me some of what he knew about the history of the drug, and its ups and downs.
Cocaine use has declined in recent years, and I asked him how come.
He said popularity for a particular drug goes in cycles. It will get a bad name and people will stop using it. Now, prescription opiates are the drug dejour, but that will change, eventually, too.
Drugs and alcohol have always been around. In 1863, Vin Mariani was a wine that had cocaine in it — it was endorsed by popes and physicians. Nobody said it tasted good. Sarah Bernhard used to say that Vin Mariani gave her strength.
In the 1900s, cocaine was in Coca Cola. Freud pushed cocaine. Some of his colleagues had problems with it. Frued said he kicked it. Lots of music was devoted to cocaine. In 1902, a pamphlet came out, “Eight Years in Cocaine Hell,” by Annie Meyers.
In 1906, we passed the Food and Drug Act, but before that, there was no such thing as a prescription in our country. In the early 1900s, that might have been the greatest period of addiction, but there were no social ramifications. People used to use laudium, everybody took it.
It was probably called something like Carrie’s Feel Good Tonic.
In the 1900s, the Chinese railroad workers were using opiates, but then other people started using opium. We passed the Harrison Act in 1914, which assoiciated drugs with crime, drugs on the street went up 500 percent because before that people didn’t have to steal to maintain a drug addiction.
It went out of fashion, and came back in with Easy Rider, Peter Fonda as Captain America and Dennis Hopper — they pulled off a cocaine deal and went around the country doing nothing and that’s when Cocaine started to come back into the culture.
It was popular through the 1970s and 1980s, then John Belushi died, and John Delorean had troubles because of it, and it went out of fashion.