Stupid Question ™
May 3, 2004
By John Ruch
Q: What is a mojo pin?
—Eve Lighthouse, Columbus, Ohio
A: “Mojo pin” is a term apparently invented by the late singer/songwriter Jeff Buckley in his song of the same name. It has since become the name of at least two rock bands and a European nightclub, among who knows what else.
The song “Mojo Pin” is the opening cut on Buckley’s acclaimed 1994 debut album “Grace.” He wrote the song with guitarist Gary Lucas when part of Lucas’s band Gods and Monsters. Buckley wrote the words.
The relevant part of the lyrics runs: “If only you’d come back to me/If you laid at my side/Wouldn’t need no mojo pin/To keep me satisfied.”
The context makes it fairly clear that a “mojo pin” is a hypodermic needle full of heroin, as the lyrics go on to say, “I’m blind and tortured, the white horses flow.” “Horse” or “white horse” is a slang term for heroin.
And indeed, asked by an interviewer about the song, Buckley confirmed that “mojo pin” is “a euphemism for a dropper full of smack that you shoot in your arm.” (As quoted in “Rolling Stone” in 1997.)
The song seems to be a personification of drugs as a woman, or a depiction of drugs as a sorry substitute for love. (Or perhaps both.)
“Mojo” is a 1960s slang term for morphine and/or heroin, the origin being unknown. It’s probably related to the more familiar meaning of “mojo”—voodoo magic—which probably comes from an African or Gullah term.
“Mojo” also developed connotations of “libido” or “moxie” in the 1960s.
Buckley died at age 30 on May 29, 1997 by drowning in the Mississippi River at Memphis, Tennessee, where he was recording an album. Contrary to what the “Mojo Pin” lyrics might suggest, he reportedly was not a heroin user, and drugs played no role in his accidental death.
However, his father Tim Buckley, also an eclectic musician, died of a combination of heroin and alcohol in 1975 at the even younger age of 28.
But Jeff Buckley barely knew his father—whose death involved snorted, not injected, heroin—so there is probably little direct influence on the “Mojo Pin” lyrics there.