It’s fairly safe to say that no other state has been honored in song as many times as California. Texas? It may be a close second. Tennessee? It lays claim to some classics, but still, it’s nowhere close. Minnesota? Not even close! Listening to them all would take forever, so here are some of the top songs about California.
Since 1950 alone, there have been literally thousands of songs written about the Golden State, which should really come as no surprise. With a variety of uniquely beautiful landscapes that span all 840 miles of its Pacific coastline, a history of being the epicenter for revolutionary cultural movements (Flower Power, anyone?), and a name that, let’s face it, is pretty darn lyrical, California gives folks plenty to sing about. Anyone who has lived there, or even visited, will tell you that the state possesses a kind of mystical allure — certain energy that makes people want to sit down and explore the meaning of life via three verses and a chorus. Here are my top songs written about the state of California.
TOP SONGS ABOUT CALIFORNIA STATE!
One caveat before we begin: Songs deemed too obvious have been omitted to make room for entries that, I feel, do a better job of capturing the state in all of its beautiful weirdness.
Hip Hop Songs About California
“California Love” — Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur
The 90s brought us some very good West Coast rap and one essential song to understanding just how important rap collaborations was is California Love. With a catchy beat and wild Mad Max-themed music video, California Love still hits after all these years!
“Going Back to Cali” — Notorious B.I.G
I LOVE “Going Back to Cali”, a song in which Biggie Smalls raps about his love for California and looking forward to going back. Anyone who followed the West Coast/East Coast rap feud knows that both camps produced amazing songs. Going Back to Cali is just one of them!
“I Love Cali (in the summertime)- Roscoe
This 2006 song is an ode to California and all the things that make it great. With a catchy chorus and a smooth beat, “I Love Cali” has become a favorite of hip-hop fans and Californians alike.
Rock Songs/ Soft Pop About California
“Californication” — Red Hot Chili Peppers
This list could easily be comprised of five songs by the Chili Peppers. Fact: Roughly 99 percent of their songs mention California in one way or another. OK, that may be a slight exaggeration, but still, there’s no arguing the fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers are an essential California band. With “Californication,” they delve into the fakeness behind California’s glitzy exterior, and in the process, create a truly beautiful song.
“California Sun” — Joe Jones
Although it became a much bigger hit for The Rivieras in 1965, Joe Jones’ 1961 version of “California Sun” makes a list because it truly captures a bygone era of California’s history. With a lo-fi, old-time rock-and-roll sound, and a saxophone riff that tends to stick in one’s head for days, this track is all sunshine, beach babes, and longboards.
“California Stars” — Billy Bragg and Wilco
This collaboration between British political rocker Billy Bragg and alternative country outfit Wilco is pure Americana. It was recorded for the first of the Mermaid Avenue albums, which came together when Nora Guthrie invited Bragg and Wilco to give life to a collection of her late father’s lyrics that he never got around to recording. That’s right, this song was written by the great American songsmith himself: Woody Guthrie. Who better to pay tribute to that one long, crooked state out West?
“Estimated Prophet” — The Grateful Dead
As the house band of the famous Acid Tests in Summer of Love-era San Francisco, Jerry Garcia and Co. hold an important place in California’s musical history. This song, with its refrain “California, preaching on the burning shore / California, I’ll be knocking on the golden door,” is sung from the perspective of a wide-eyed zealot, shouting about doomsday on a California beach somewhere. It brings to mind the hippies, that you might run into in San Francisco or L.A.
“California Dreamin’– The Mamas & The Papas
This 1965 classic is a folk-rock gem that captures the yearning for a better life that is so often associated with California. With its soaring harmonies and melancholy lyrics, “California Dreamin'” has become a beloved anthem of the West Coast lifestyle.
“California Waiting” — Kings of Leon
“California Waiting” is a song by the American rock band Kings of Leon, included on their debut album “Youth and Young Manhood”. The song has a relaxed and catchy melody, featuring acoustic and electric guitar riffs, a steady drum beat, and Caleb Followill’s distinctive vocals.
“Santa Monica” –Everclear
“Santa Monica” is a song by the American alternative rock band Everclear, released in 1995 as a single from their album “Sparkle and Fade”. The song features a driving guitar riff and a powerful chorus, with frontman Art Alexakis delivering passionate vocals. The song’s energetic rhythm and catchy melody, combined with its emotionally charged lyrics, have made it one of Everclear’s most enduring hits.
“Garden Grove” — Sublime
“Garden Grove” is a song by the American ska punk band Sublime, included on their self-titled album “Sublime”. The song has a relaxed reggae beat, featuring guitar and bass riffs, drum beats, and Bradley Nowell’s distinctive vocals. The lyrics describe the band’s hometown of Garden Grove, California, and the experiences they had growing up there, from police harassment to the drug culture.