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The 15 Best Songs About California

best songs about california
A view of a California street in 2021. Photo from unsplash.

Whether you’re a die-hard California native or just a fan of the Golden State, many songs about California will get your toes tapping and your heart soaring. Check out our list of the best songs about California! 

 

“Malibu” – Hole

For their 1998 Celebrity Skin album, Courtney Love and company paid homage to Southern California, the Pacific Ocean, and various fading actresses. Love’s raging, emotional vocals are prominent on “Malibu,” the first on our list of best songs about California.

 

“California ” – Phantom Planet

“California,” the theme song to the show The O.C., was a huge hit for Phantom Planet. It reflects the love and nostalgia that Phantom Planet has for California.

The song was written while the band drove from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Unsurpisingly, it sounds like a road trip with the windows down.

 

“California” – Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Ray has a voice that’s far beyond her years. Her whimsical, dreamy sound is very West Coast, especially on “California” from her 2019 album Mermaid Motel

 

“Californication” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

“Californication” is one of Red Hot Chili Peppers most popular songs. It was inspired by the wandering souls in California that are desperate for fame.

The song, which also muses on how California’s influence is visible in other cultures, incorporates themes of death, suicide, drugs, and the globalization of society.

 

Going To California – Led Zeppelin

There is no denying that Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, IV, is a masterpiece. It sold over 22 million copies and spent over two months on the Billboard 200. 

A mellow groove and some rad mandolin make “Going to California” one of the ultimate songs about California. 

 

California Love – Tupac

For all his achievements, Tupac might be best known for “California Love.” Released when Tupac got out of prison in October 1995, the song is a tribute to the West Coast and its partying lifestyle. In 2004, Rolling Stone listed it as one of the top 500 songs of all time. It was also nominated for two Grammy Awards.

 

“I Left My Heart In San Francisco” – Tony Bennet

One of the classic songs about California, Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Fransicso” first appeared as the b-side of the “Once Upon A Time” single, released in February 1962. He’s sang it at almost every concert he’s done since then, including on MTV Unplugged in 1994.

 

“Hotel California” – The Eagles

Among the most enduring songs of the 1970s is the Eagles’ “Hotel California.” It has sold more than 16 million copies in the United States alone. 

“Hotel California” was written by Glenn Frey, Don Henley, and Don Felder. Supposedly, the song is about the hedonistic lifestyle of southern California, touching on greed, hedonism, and self-destruction. The socio-political statement is also rumored to be about hell.

 

“California Dreamin’” – The Mamas & The Papas

“California Dreamin'” by the Mamas & the Papas was one of the most popular folk rock songs of the 1960s. One of the first songs that come to mind when you think of songs about California, it reached number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. 

 

“California Sun” – The Ramones

Although first recorded by the Rivieras in 1964, the most famous version of “California Sun” was released by the Ramones. This ode to California features the driving guitar, bass, and drums that the Ramones are known for. The fun singalong is undoubtedly one of the most popular songs about California. 

 

“L.A. Woman” – The Doors

The title track from the Doors final album with Jim Morrison, “L.A. Woman” is about searching for a woman on the streets of Los Angeles. It features the famous “Mr. Mojo rising” refrain that would forever be linked with the eccentric Doors frontman. 

 

“California Stars” – Wilco

In 1998, the estate of legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie gave his unused lyrics to Americana band Wilco and songwriter Billy Bragg to add lyrics to. This collaboration resulted in three volumes of the critically acclaimed Mermaid Avenue project.

Though filled with classics like “Christ for President” and “At My Window Sad and Lonely,” the high point of the sessions was gorgeous “California Stars,” perhaps Wilco’s second most popular song to “Jesus, Etc.”

 

“California Songs” – Local H

For those just dropping in, we’re a humble little music website called Music in Minnesota. As such, we’re practically oblidged to include this song on our list of best songs about California. 

Instead of extolling the virtues of the Bear Flag State, Chicago’s Local H blasts its vapid materialism and commercialism from a uniquely midwestern perspective. The hook at the end of the chorus is classic: “please no more California songs…and fuck New York too.”

 

“California Gurls” – Katy Perry

When it comes to songs about California, few are more ubiquitous than Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” Its practically psychedelic video fits the whimsical charm of the massive hit.

 

“When You Get To California” – Hoodoo Gurus

Though perhaps under the radar, one of the best songs about California is “When You Get to California” by the Hoodoo Gurus. Released in 1986 on their album Blow Your Cool!, the song is a loving  tribute to the band’s home state.

What is your favorite California song? Which songs did we miss? Let us know in the comments!

Written by Bo Weber

Supporting artists since 2014

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