15 Classic Songs About California
California Songs, California Promises
It may be impossible to capture California's essence in a single piece of music, but the 15 songs on this list are classic attempts at that task.
These 15 California songs — all from the 1960s and 1970s — still manage to capture pieces of the Golden State. The songs cover California: its days and nights, its beaches and cities, its newcomers and fads, its drivers and dreamers.
Listen, and you'll likely yearn for sunshine. Listen, and you may well hear an echo of the California soul.
Where To FInd Other Songs About California
- 100 Songs About California
The ultimate California playlist.
- 10 Songs About Northern California
Few cities in Northern California get sung about the way Los Angeles does. Here's celebrating 10 Northern cities that have made their way into song.
- California Calling: 10 Songs About Moving to California
Thinking of leaving home for California? These 10 songs will get you packed up and moving to the Golden State. California's calling.
1) California Day
Starland Vocal Band
The California promise: To ditch stress "big time," break out the windchimes.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: The weather.
Lyrics: "California day, California weather. Take the clouds away, I'll feel a whole lot better. California day. There's nothing like the sunshine to get me out of doors..."
2) Back to California
The California promise: No offense Georgia, but West Coast longing is powerful stuff.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: It preserves sanity.
Lyrics: "I've got to make it home somehow before I lose my mind. So won't you carry me back to California? I've been on the road too long..."
3) California Nights
The California promise: Dive into the ocean and fall in love watching the stars.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: The Pacific.
Lyrics: "Whoa, California nights, when I'm walking with you, hand in hand by the shore. Yes, I love California nights, at the beach where we swim with the tide rolling in..."
4) California Soul
The Fifth Dimension
The California promise: Pat your feet. Don't worry about "how the surf gave birth," just try some "brand new thinking."
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: The groove.
Lyrics: "It's all in the the air, you hear it everywhere, no matter what you do, it's going to get a hold on you: California soul, California soul. They say the sun comes up every morning, and if you listen carefully, the winds that ride on the high time whistle in melody..."
5) San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)
The California promise: Who needs a hat? Grab some flowers and get in motion.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: The love.
Lyrics: "For those who come to San Francisco, summertime will be a love-in there, in the streets of San Francisco, gentle people with flowers in their hair..."
6) Do You Know the Way to San Jose
The California promise: LA is a great big freeway ... (As is San Jose, now.)
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: Hometown friends.
Lyrics: "Fame and fortune is a magnet, it can pull you far away from home. With a dream a heart you're never alone. Dreams turn into dust and blow away, and there you are..."
The California promise: Getting back to California will just mean everything to you.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: Everything. Got it?
Lyrics: "California is calling me. California is where I should be."
The California promise: When Spain and Greece can't compare.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: It's home.
Lyrics: "Still a lot of lands to see, but I wouldn't want to stay here, it's too old and cold and settled in its ways. Oh, but California, California I'm coming home."
9) Hotel California
The California promise: The dream's more complicated than it seems at first glance.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: The excess.
Lyrics: "I heard the mission bell and I was thinking to myself, this could be heaven or this could be hell."
10) Going to California
The California promise: Come to search, come to start over.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: Dreams.
Lyrics: "Made up my mind to make a new start, going to California with an aching in my heart. Someone told me there's a girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair."
11) California Dreamin
The Mamas and the Papas
The California promise: Safety and warmth.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: Los Angeles.
Lyrics: "I'd be safe and warm if I was in LA, California dreamin on such a winter's day."
The Beach Boys
The promise: Morro Bay to Salinas to Big Sur ... There's more to explore than will fit in a song. And it's all bright and clean.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: Roadtrips. (And John Steinbeck, apparently.)
Lyrics: "Have you ever walked down through the sycamores where the farmhouse used to be? There the monarch's autumn journey ends on windswept cypress trees."
13) California Girls
The Beach Boys
The California promise: Tans and bikinis.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: The girls.
Lyrics: "I been all around this great big world and I seen all kind of girls, but I couldn't wait to get back in the states, back to the cutest girls in the word. I wish they all could be California girls..."
14) The Little Old Lady From Pasadena
Jan and Dean
The California Promise: You must learn to drive. Even the grannies will cut you off.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: Car culture.
Lyrics: "Parked in a old rickety old garage is a brand-new, shiny red super stock Dodge. And everybody's saying that there's nobody meaner than the little old lady from Pasadena."
15) Talk to Me of Mendocino
Kate and Anna McGarrigle
The California Promise: It's better than New York, and it's better than South Bend.
What's worth singing about in the Golden State: Redwoods
Lyrics: "Let the sun set on the ocean, I will watch it from the shore. Let the sun rise over the redwoods, I'll rise with it till I rise no more."