California: The Musician's Muse
What is it about the sunshine state of California that makes it so special when it comes to songwriting? Some artists choose to pay a superficial homage to the people of California, others select specific places within the great state to sing love songs to and a select few decide to delve into the culture of the state, to get to the heart of its soul and communicate this through a melody or two. Take a look at some of these classic musical numbers written about the golden state, bearing in mind that we are merely touching the tip of the iceberg.
California Dreamin’ by The Mamas & The Papas
There can’t be a list detailing the greatest songs ever written about California without considering the harmonic melodies of The Mamas & The Papas. California Dreamin’ is a whimsical track longing for the heat and sunshine of California on a bitterly cold winter’s day. Innocent and folksy in style, this song was released slap bang in the middle of the swinging ‘60s and was voted the 89th greatest song of all time in Rolling Stone magazine.
California Love by Tupac Shakur
Released in 1995 before the artist was tragically killed, California Love is Tupac’s most memorable song. While the East Coast / West Coast hip hop rivalry was heating up and becoming ever more violent, rappers from both sides were releasing songs using their environment as the focus. Detailing life on the streets and a more rugged side to the state, this song has remained a heavy influence within hip-hop popular culture to this day.
Surfin’ USA by The Beach Boys
A classic of American culture, this jazz-pop track was released in 1963 and became in instant hit. Name checking nearly every Californian surfing haven, you could imagine the brothers checking in at the San Diego Marriott La Jolla, looking out of their window and using the vista as their inspiration for the song. Although there was controversy over authorship of the song between Beach Boys member Brian Wilson and Chuck Berry, they eventually agreed to be listed as equal contributors by the time it was re-released in 1966.
Hotel California by The Eagles
A hugely original, long and eerie song at over six minutes long, this soft rock ballad-esque track tells a story of a hotel that is like the Bates Motel in its vibe. Taken at face value, it's about a guy who arrives at the dwelling looking for a place to stay after becoming lost only to find a whole host of weird and wonderful things to greet him. On a more metaphorical level, the song is said to be about the emergence of a counterculture within Californian society. Whichever way you look at it, this was one of the standout tracks from the 1970s era.
California is a state of great contrasts, beauty and history. From the streets of downtown LA to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the sunshine state has much to offer those artists looking for a muse.