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.