Take a Trip Through the States with Songs for California—America’s Songbook

Every state across the country has its own type of music that makes it what it is. In a multi-part series, American Songwriter will take a look at each of the 50 states and the music that emanates from each of the various and unique landscapes.

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Next stop: California

1. “California Dreamin’” – The Mamas & The Papas

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray / I’ve been for a walk on a winter’s day / I’d be safe and warm if I was in L.A. / California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day, opens the Mama & the Papas classic, “California Dreamin’.”

The song was written by band members John and Michelle Phillips. One winter while living in New York City, the two began missing their California home and from longing for and dreaming of the sunny state, “California Dreamin'” was born.

2. “California” – Joni Mitchell

Another artist homesick for the state, Canadian-born singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell wrote “California” while she was living in France. In the song, she too longs for California. She reminisces on the good times she’s had abroad, but nothing compares to her adopted home state.

She sings, I‘m gonna see the folks I dig / I’ll even kiss a sunset pig / California, I’m coming home, and asks with bated breath, Oh, will you take me as I am? / Strung out on another man / California, I’m coming home.

3. “California Love” – 2Pac, feat. Dr. Dre

An ode to the state, 2Pac’s “California Love” details the splendors of California. The song boasts California knows how to party and We keep it rockin’ to an infectious tune.

Making up America’s Songbook, here is a playlist of songs for California about the state and by the statesmen.

Playlist for California

“Californication” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

“Los Angeles” – X

“California” – Phantom Planet

“Drop It Like It’s Hot” – Snoop Dogg

“California Love” – 2Pac, feat. Dr. Dre

“Paradise City” – Guns N Roses

“California Girls” – Beach Boys

“Going Back To Cali” – LL Cool J

“Happier Than Ever” – Billie Eilish

“California Gurls” – Katy Perry

“California Waiting” – Kings Of Leon

“Sweet Life” – Frank Ocean

“At Last” – Etta James

“Hotel California” – The Eagles

“California Dreamin’” – The Mamas & The Papas

“Los Angeles, I’m Yours” – The Decemberists

“Grace” – Jeff Buckley

“This Is How We Do It” – Montell Jordan

“Going To California” – Led Zeppelin

“LA Woman” – The Doors

“California Stars” – Wilco

”You Raise Me Up” – Josh Groban

“U Can’t Touch This” – MC Hammer

“Queen Of California” – John Mayer

“California” – U2

“Malibu” – Hole

“Barracuda” – Heart

“California” – Joni Mitchell

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