10 Songs About Northern California
Songs About Northern California
Perhaps because California is a large, diverse and confused state, sometimes the people living there have trouble remembering the state is actually one, unified entity. Instead, they'll talk about "Northern California" and "Southern California" as if the two were separate states (like the Carolinas), or, possibly, separate planets.
As with any good "us" vs. "them" dynamic, there's factual muddling (plenty of what's called "northern" actually falls south of the state's midpoint) and overstatement. There's also a competition: for power, for water, for world recognition and cultural relevance. Poor Northern California. When it comes to famous songs, Southern California beats the north country down hard. Very hard.
Places like San Jose and Oakland simply haven't proved as popular song fodder as, say, certain boulevards in Los Angeles. Somehow, "The San Francisco Bay Area" just doesn't seem to have the same poetic ring as "L.A." Yet despite the long odds, certain Northern California cities have made it. Really made it—they've had songs written about them.
1. Big Sur
"Big Sur," The Thrills
- The place: Big Sur is known for its dramatic coastline and picturesque winding roads. Apparently, though, this songwriter wasn't interested in composing an ode to a scenic place.
- From the song: "Just don't go back to Big Sur."
"California," Dan Zanes
- The place: Sacramento was born with the California Gold Rush, and it is now the state's capital city.
- From the song: "Then ho, boys, ho! to California go. There's plenty of gold in the world, I'm told, on the banks of the Sacramento shore."
"Folsom Prison Blues," Johnny Cash
- The place: Located near Sacramento in the state's Central Valley, Folsom is home to Folsom State Prison, one of California's oldest.
- From the song: "I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when. I'm stuck in Folsom Prison, and time keeps draggin' on."
"Ukiah," The Doobie Brothers
- The place: Ukiah is a tiny city on the far northern coast of California, and it remains a place off the beaten path in Mendocino County.
- From the song: "Retreat and live off the land, all around Ukiah."
5. San Francisco
"San Francisco Days," Chris Isaak
- The place: No longer one of the state's largest cities, San Francisco is still one of California's most famous and iconic places, thanks in part to the Golden Gate Bridge, crazy-steep streets and an ever-present blanket of fog.
- From the song: "Walking down to Market Street feeling my heart skip a beat to see someone who looks like you... San Francisco days, San Francisco nights."
6. Palo Alto
"Palo Alto," Radiohead
- The place: One of those interchangeable Silicon Valley cities where the price of living is high and where now-famous innovations were once cooked up in nondescript garages.
- From the song: "In the city of the future, it is difficult to find a space. I'm too busy to see you; you're too busy to wait."
"Mendocino," The Sir Douglas Quintet
- The place: Hippies live on among the towering redwoods of Mendocino.
- From the song: "Please stay here with me in Mendocino, Mendocino, Mendocino, where life's such a groove."
"Monterey," Eric Burdon & The Animals
- The place: Once the setting for John Steinbeck novels, now the city is a tourist mecca on the moody waters of Monterey Bay.
- From the song: "Even the cops grooved with us, do you believe me? Yeah! Down in Monterey."
"Lodi," Credence Clearwater Revival
- The place: Lodi is a mostly agricultural city near Stockton in California's Central Valley.
- From the song: "Ran out of time and money, looks like they took my friends. Oh Lord, I'm stuck in Lodi again."
"Sausalito," Conor Oberst
- The place: Head north over the Golden Gate Bridge arrive in Sausalito, a small city tucked between the bay and Mount Tamalpais.
- From the song: "We should move to Sausalito. Living's easy on a houseboat, let the ocean rock us back and forth to sleep."
10 Northern California Cities With Songs About Them