“4+20” or 84?


The song “4+20”, written and sung by Stephen Stills, tells the sad story of a man who is born into a poor family and finds himself alone in his old age, wishing for death to come.
Stills explained that the song was “about an 84-year-old poverty-stricken man who started and finished with nothing.”

Four and twenty years ago
I come into this life,
Son of a woman
And a man who lived in strife.
He was tired of being poor
But he wasn’t into selling door to door
And he worked like a devil to be more.

A different kind of poverty now upsets me so
Night after sleepless night
I walk the floor and want to know
Why am I so alone?
Where is my woman, can I bring her home?
Have I driven her away?
Is she gone?

Morning comes the sunrise,
And I’m driven to my bed
I see that it is empty
And there’s devils in my head.
I embrace the many colored beast.
I grow weary of the torment
Can there be no peace?
And I find myself just wishing that my life would simply cease.


A question arises spontaneously: if the man in this song is 84 years old, why does Stills sing that he was born “Four and twenty years ago”?

Stills was about twenty-four years old when he wrote it and, moreover, “Four and Twenty” is a phrase popularized in the children’s song “Sing a Song of Sixpence”

“Four Twenty” is also slang for the consumption of cannabis, because it is believed that at 4:20, whether it be night or day, one should partake in the activity of smoking marijuana and also refers to cannabis-oriented celebrations that take place on April 20th, which is 4/20 in U.S. form.

33 thoughts on ““4+20” or 84?

  1. I am sure Stills wrote this song long before 420 became slang for pot. That was only in the late 80s or early 90s, after I quit smoking myself. Oddly, never heard 420 referring to weed until after I dropped that habit. He’s talking about his age, and now I have to go look that song up on YouTube. Thanks.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Sono tante le canzoni americane piene di doppi o tripli sensi su cui generare le loro metafore, tra l’altro nella tradizione dei “blues” sono proprio queste le tematiche su cui si generano i testi. La frase “…and there’s devils in my head…” è emblematica per entrare in queste dimensioni e poi Stills è fantastico: trasforma in oro tutto ciò che suona, anche la cannabis 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s