Cocaine (song)

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Not to be confused with Cocaine Blues.
Single by JJ Cale
from the album Troubadour
Released September 1976
Recorded 1976
Genre Tulsa Sound
Length 2:48
Label Shelter
Writer(s) JJ Cale
Producer(s) Audie Ashworth

"Cocaine" is a song written and recorded in 1976 by JJ Cale, who was until then a little known country blues singer with a particular relaxed style. Both Cale and the song became famous when a cover version was recorded by Eric Clapton. The song was featured in the 2004 film Starsky & Hutch, and in the 2005 films Lord of War and Bad News Bears.


Chart (1977–1979) Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)[1] 45
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[2] 5
Germany (Official German Charts)[3] 22
Italy (FIMI)[4] 17
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[5] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[6] 10
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[7] 2
Preceded by
"After the Lovin'" by Engelbert Humperdinck
New Zealand number-one single
March 6, 1977 (1 week)
Succeeded by
"After the Lovin'" by Engelbert Humperdinck

Eric Clapton version[edit]

Single by Eric Clapton
from the album Slowhand
Released November 1977
Recorded May 1977
Genre Blues rock
Length 3:38
Label Polydor
Producer(s) Glyn Johns

Glyn Johns, who had previously worked with The Who, Faces, Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, produced the Clapton recording, which was released on the 1977 album Slowhand and as a single in 1980. The live version of "Cocaine", from the Just One Night album recorded in Tokyo, charted on the Billboard Hot 100 as the B-side of "Tulsa Time", which was a No. 30 hit in 1980. "Cocaine" was one of several of Cale's songs recorded by Clapton, including "After Midnight" and "Travelin' Light". AllMusic critic Richard Gilliam calls the latter "among [Clapton's] most enduringly popular hits" and notes that "even for an artist like Clapton with a huge body of high-quality work, 'Cocaine' ranks among his best."[8]

Clapton describes "Cocaine" as an anti-drug song. He has called the song "quite cleverly anti-cocaine", noting:[9]

It's no good to write a deliberate anti-drug song and hope that it will catch. Because the general thing is that people will be upset by that. It would disturb them to have someone else shoving something down their throat. So the best thing to do is offer something that seems ambiguous—that on study or on reflection actually can be seen to be "anti"—which the song "Cocaine" is actually an anti-cocaine song. If you study it or look at it with a little bit of thought ... from a distance ... or as it goes by ... it just sounds like a song about cocaine. But actually, it is quite cleverly anti-cocaine.

Because of its ambiguous message, Clapton did not perform the song in many of his concerts; over the years, Clapton has added the lyrics 'that dirty cocaine' in live shows to underline the anti-drug message of the song.[10][11]


Chart (1980) Peak
Canada (CHUM)[12] 2
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[13] 3
Netherlands (Dutch Tip 40)[14] 14
US Billboard Hot 100[15] 30


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[16] Gold 75,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[17] Platinum 150,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Other cover versions[edit]

A live cover by the Scottish rock band Nazareth appears on their albums The Fool Circle and 'Snaz. Guitarist Andy Taylor of Duran Duran recorded it for his 1990 solo album Dangerous.

In 2008, country singer Gretchen Wilson quoted the melody from the tag end of the chorus ("she don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie") for her song "Work Hard, Play Harder" (which also borrowed from The Black Crowes). The hard rock band Black Robot covered the song on their 2010 self-titled album. Post-grunge band Puddle of Mudd included a cover as a bonus track for their 2011 covers-album Re:(disc)overed. Old Lady Drivers released a cover of the song on their 1988 self titled debut album.

In popular culture[edit]

The song was featured in the 2004 film Starsky & Hutch, and in the 2005 films Lord of War and Bad News Bears.


  1. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  2. ^ " – J.J. Cale – Cocaine" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  3. ^ " – J.J. Cale – Cocaine". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  4. ^ "Indice per Interprete: C" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Creative Commons. Retrieved June 4, 2014. 
  5. ^ " – J.J. Cale – Cocaine". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  6. ^ " – J.J. Cale – Cocaine". Singles Top 60. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  7. ^ " – J.J. Cale – Cocaine". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  8. ^ Gilliam, Richard. "Eric Clapton – Cocaine – Song Review". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved June 12, 2014. 
  9. ^ The Best of Everything Show, with Dan Neer
  10. ^ "Eric Clapton Rethinks Playing'Cocaine'". Fox News Channel. Associated Press. December 31, 1969. Retrieved July 9, 2010. 
  11. ^ "Eric Clapton rethinks playing 'Cocaine'". Alcohol and Drugs History Society. October 5, 2006. Retrieved July 9, 2010. 
  12. ^ CHART NUMBER 1229 – Saturday, August 02, 1980 at the Wayback Machine (archived July 29, 2007). CHUM. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  13. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 0234a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  14. ^ "Tipparade-lijst van week 51, 1977". Dutch Top 40. Retrieved August 8, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Eric Clapton – Artist Biography". AllMusic. All Media Network. Retrieved June 12, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Eric Clapton – Cocaine". Music Canada. 
  17. ^ Härtel, Alexander (1997). Platin Songs (in German). Berlin: Kupijai & Prochnow. pp. 12–17. ISBN 3-932051-46-7. 

External links[edit]