“Stoned Love” by The Supremes
It is inevitable that upon reading the name of this song (“Stoned Love”) and taking into consideration the era in which it was releases, many readers will presume that it is about drugs. In other words stoned is a common colloquial phrase, especially from the mid-to-late 20th century, which is synonymous with being wasted on drugs.
And if you have in fact assumed that the title may allude to such a notion, you are not alone. Verily as the story goes, Motown had to fight to get radio stations to play this track since the mainstream media was a lot more-puritan back in those days.
Also a performance of the tune on The Merv Griffin Show was canceled in 1970 based on that exact same presumption. It has also been noted that Berry Gordy, Motown’s founder, had a strong dislike of “Stoned Love” which was at least partially due to its title. But The Supremes weren’t even on it like that. And said title, as well as song in general, is based on an entirely different metaphor.
What really is the meaning of “Stoned Love”?
The titular sentiment is actually derived from another mid-20th slang term, stone love, which apparently proved to be especially popular in the music industry. And another way to define it is a strong, solid affection, possessing qualities akin to a stone.
Indeed you may already know that alongside drugs, another popular topic amongst musicians during the hippie era was the concept of universal love. This was especially true in places like America where citizens had grown weary of the Vietnam War and the various horrors of the civil rights’ years. And that, folks, is what “stoned love” refers to – or more specifically a display of said emotion which is not only widespread amongst mankind but also remains constant throughout.
And the singer puts forth ways in which this goal is manifest or can be achieved. For instance, the first verse states that ‘believing’ is a major factor. And the second verse speaks for a need of forgiveness. It also references “a message from above”. And overall it reads as if it was influenced by Christian theology, as other parts of the song so also.
The third verse is a bit more philosophical and political. In the former regard, The Supremes let us know that “life is so short”, and as such we should seize the moment (to love). Then they instruct the “young at heart” to “rise up and take your stand”.
That line, more so than any other, comes off as if it were influenced by the restlessness of 1960s’ America. Then the girls go on to send a message to “the man on whose shoulder the world must depend”. That sounds as if they are addressing a mighty politician, i.e. the leader of a nation or political superpower.
And in that regard they are praying that he will be peaceful and loving. Or it could even be interpreted as if they are speaking to a Higher Power, considering that they conclude the sentiment with “amen” and all. But either way, they are addressing someone(s) a lot more powerful than themselves. This would be an individual who actually has the wherewithal to put world peace into practice.
Meanwhile the fourth verse seems to allude to the notion of the Vietnam War making Americans more loving amongst each other. So the singer is asking that when the war is over, will people retain such a sentiment? Or another way it can be deciphered is as being addressed to two warring nations.
And then The Supremes’ query would rather read like after the war is over, will there truly be peace (i.e. love) between the two former combatants?
And as for the choruses, not only are the ladies espousing “stoned love” but are also putting forth the idea that such is what they personally practice.
So conclusively, we can say that this song is definitely idealistic in its approach. The singers themselves were quite young at the time (i.e. in their late-20s). And this was also during a period in American history where we can even assert that many African-Americans in particular were craving peace, understanding and love.
And truthfully, the message contained therein, promoting the perpetual practice of such amongst men in general, isn’t anything new. Rather the most-unique spin the artists put on this well-worn topic is by presenting it as a “stoned love”.
Who wrote “Stoned Love”?
The original writer of this song is Kenny Thomas (who is credited as Yennik Samoht). Interesting to note is that at the time when he penned this song, he was a struggling teenager in Detroit. He was discovered by who would be the track’s co-writer and producer, Frank Wilson (1940-2012), who took a special liking to this song in particular.
In fact this is the only notable tune which Kenny Thomas had ever penned.
Date of Release and Success
Being released during the latter half of 1970, this song serves an important role in Supremes’ history. For instance, stateside it was the last big hit for the group, who eventually disbanded in 1977. And it was also their most-successful song after the departure of the legendary Diana Ross, with Miss Ross having left the group in 1969.
“Stoned Love” topped Billboard’s R&B chart as well as the Cashbox R&B chart. It also replicated this feat on another US-based ranking called the Record World R&B Singles chart.
Furthermore, it reached number 7 on the Hot 100 itself, number 3 on the UK Singles Chart and even number 8 on Billboard’s Singapore listing. Additionally the track has sold over a million copies in the USA.
Recording of “Stoned Love”
The instrumental to this track was recorded by a large group of session musicians, including The Funk Brothers, in the Detroit studio of Motown Records, the label behind “Stoned Love”. And The Supremes laid down their vocals in the Big Apple (though it has also been stated that Jean Terrell recorded her segment in Washington, D.C.).
The “Stone Love” Metaphor
Concerning the metaphor stone love, other artist who have used it in varying capacities include the likes of the following:
- The Stylistics (“I’m Stone in Love with You”, 1972)
- Kool & the Gang (“Stone Love”, 1987)
- Angie Stone (who covered the song on her 2004 “Stone Love” project)
- The Stone Roses (who regularly covered the tune in 2012)
- Justin Timberlake (“LoveStoned”, 2006).
More Facts about “Stoned Love”
This track is featured on The Supremes second post-Diana Ross album, “New Ways But Love Stays” (1970). At the time the group consisted of the following:
- Mary Wilson (1944-2021)
- Cindy Birdsong
- The lady who replaced Diana Ross in the lineup, Jean Terrell
Conventionally, Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong were more like figureheads, i.e. members who were there for visual effect but rarely actually sang. However, in the case of “Stoned Love” they did in fact contribute vocally.
Concerning the aforementioned disposition of Berry Gordy, it has been noted that he wasn’t overly enthused about continuing The Supremes after Diana Ross went solo, herself remaining a Motown artist. Part of the reason is that he actually wanted to replace her with Syreeta Wright (1946-2004), the songstress who went on to marry Stevie Wonder shortly thereafter (in 1970, the same year Stevie himself left Motown).
However, Wilson and Birdsong were not keen on the idea of Wright joining the group (accepting Jean Terrell instead). And Gordy still wasn’t going to release this track until his VP, Barney Ales (1934-2020), assured him that the RKO General network of popular radio stations would play it.
Meanwhile Jean Terrell herself eventually went on to leave The Supremes in 1973. And also just as an interesting side note her brother and former musical partner, Ernie Terrell (1939-2014), was once the WBA heavyweight champion.
And just to note, this song also made onto the soundtrack of the critically-acclaimed Tom Hanks’ film “Forrest Gump” (1994).