'70s Flashback: 'Peace Pipe' by B.T. Express

"Peace Pipe" by B.T. Express, 1975

Brooklyn funk band B.T. Express had a gold album in 1974 with Do It ('Til You're Satisfied), featuring two Top 10 singles. Their follow-up, Non-Stop, in 1975 fell short of expectations, though it produced their third hit single, "Give It What You Got." However, it was the B-side, "Peace Pipe," that got most of the airplay.

In the notes for the new Non-Stop reissue from Iconoclassic Records, A. Scott Galloway writes:

"While 'Give It What You Got' was cool, it was 'Peace Pipe,' the B-side, that had party people losing their minds on the dancefloors of the fast-rising disco movement. Roadshow [the original label] received the message loud and clear. They even placed an ad in music trades with a cartoon Indian Totem Pole on it and a text bubble coming from the mouth saying, 'Um, you like Peace Pipe, you got 'um.'"

Like "Express" on the first album, "Peace Pipe" is a driving track with strings, a nimble horn arrangement and solo by saxophonist by Carlos Ward, lead vocals by Barbara Joyce and even a touch of stereotypical nativism. The lengthy middle section is intended for dancers, a tip-off to the disco trend that was starting to gain steam, as Galloway indicates. The song clocks in at six minutes, though it was trimmed down for radio.


Is "Peace Pipe" a Pot Song?

Even more intersting was the perception of "Peace Pipe" being about marijuana and not tobacco, which is traditionally smoked by Native Americans. So, due to the controversial nature of the song, the lyrics were softened with what Galloway calls "lyrical substitutions" by Mark Barkan, a songwriter who was brought in for the rewrite.

Galloway tells me: "Because the original lyrics by Sam Taylor were pro-cannabis and too edgy, Barkan allegedly swapped in some other stuff."

The songwriter's grandson, Lawrence Worrell, explained to Galloway:

"My granddad was a hardcore marijuana advocate who used to hang with Sly Stone... He was expressing his advocacy for marijuana and it being legalized like Peter Tosh did with 'Legalize It.' Simultaneously, he was paying homage to our Native American ancestry. Our Taylor family is Cherokee, Sioux and Blackfoot."


The Lyrics

Put it in your peace pipe (Yeah)
Smoke it on up (What say?)

Put it in your peace pipe (Everybody get some)
Smoke it on up (Everybody get a little)

Put it in your peace pipe (Peace)
And pass it around

Put in some love
And some understanding
Add a little humanity
Put in some faith
Wonderful kindness
Light it up and pass it to me

Put it in your peace pipe (Yeah)
Smoke it on up (What you say)


Jesse Jackson's Objections

According to Galloway, civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson "panned the song and the band at two of his famous P.U.S.H. Expo events because he felt it promoted promiscuous sex and getting high."

RELATED: The Top 20 Stoner Songs of All Time, Part 1 and Part 2


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.