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Cheech & Chong Biography

Richard ‘Cheech’ Marin (13 July 1946, Watts, Los Angeles, California, USA) became acquainted with Tommy Chong (b. Thomas B. Kin Chong, 24 May 1938, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) in 1968 having fled to Canada to escape induction into the US Army. The latter was a noted musician, having performed with Canadian soul band Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers, but the duo’s plans for a rock group were sidelined on discovering an aptitude for comedy. They decamped to America and established a residency at the famed Los Angeles Troubador venue. This resulted in a recording contract with Lou Adler’s Ode Records, through which a succession of albums established their unique humour. Drawing upon their rock backgrounds, Cheech And Chong pursued subjects apposite to hippie culture - long hair, drugs, sex and police harassment - in a manner indebted to comedian Lenny Bruce and the San Francisco-based avant garde troupe, the Committee. Initially fêted by those whose lifestyles provided their subject matter, the duo won a Best Comedy Album Grammy for 1973’s Los Cochinos, and enjoyed US hit singles with ‘Santa Claus And His Old Lady’, ‘Basketball Jones Featuring Tyrone Shoelaces’, ‘Sister Mary Elephant (Shudd-Up!)’, ‘Earache My Eye (Featuring Alice Bowie)’, ‘Black Lassie’, ‘(How I Spent My Summer Vacation) Or A Day At The Beach With Pedro & Man - Parts I & II’, ‘Framed’, and ‘Bloat On’.

In 1978 the duo began a film career with Up In Smoke, the first of several such ventures and a surprisingly lucrative outing, reeling in over $100 million over the years. While under the influence of MTV and a concurrent video boom, the duo began placing a greater emphasis on music. 1985’s Get Out Of My Room included ‘Born In East L.A.’, a satirical reworking of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born In The USA’. The song referred to a true-life incident wherein a Latin-American, legally domiciled in the USA, was deported to Mexico when he was unable to prove his citizenship during an immigration raid. ‘Born In East L.A.’ became a US hit single and inspired a Marin-starring movie of the same title.

Following their break-up in the late 80s, Richard Marin went on to enjoy great success as a comedy actor and had a major role as the voice of the hyena Banzai in The Lion King. Chong also worked as an actor, earning cult status in the late 90s for his role as ageing hippie Leo in the popular series That 70s Show. He also performs a stand-up comic act with his second wife Shelby. In 2002 his business Nice Dreams Enterprise, which sells drug paraphernalia over the Internet, was busted by the US Justice Department. Chong received a nine-month prison sentence in a controversial decision. On his release he reunited with Marin and began work on a new movie.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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