California has long been associated with sunshine, beaches, Hollywood, and a laid-back, carefree lifestyle. Songs about California often tap into this romanticized vision of the state, and listeners are drawn to the idea of escaping to a place where life is always sunny and carefree.
California has been a hub of cultural activity for decades, with a thriving music scene that has produced countless influential artists and bands. Many listeners are drawn to songs about California simply because of the cultural influence the state has had on music and popular culture.
Here, we bring some songs about California for those who have lived in California or visited the state, songs about California can evoke powerful feelings of nostalgia and memories of past experiences.
1. Wilco – “California Stars”
“California Stars” is a song by American rock band Wilco, written by Jeff Tweedy and Woody Guthrie. The song was recorded for the Mermaid Avenue album series, which consisted of songs that were written by Woody Guthrie but never recorded. The album series was a collaboration between Wilco and British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg.
“California Stars” is a nostalgic and dreamy song that paints a picture of the California sky and the stars that shine above it. The lyrics are inspired by Woody Guthrie’s own love for California and his experiences traveling throughout the state during the 1930s and 1940s.
2. 2PAC – “California Love”
“California Love” is a hip hop song by the late American rapper 2Pac featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman. It was released in 1995 as the lead single from 2Pac’s album “All Eyez on Me”. The song became a massive hit and is considered one of the most iconic hip hop songs of all time.
“California Love” is an upbeat, party anthem that celebrates the West Coast hip hop scene and the California lifestyle. The song features a heavy bassline, funky guitar riffs, and a catchy chorus that has become a staple of 90s hip hop.
3. Phantom Planet – “California”
“California” is a song by the American alternative rock band Phantom Planet. It was released in 2002 and became the band’s biggest hit, reaching number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“California” is an upbeat, guitar-driven song that celebrates the laid-back lifestyle and sunny skies of California. The song’s lyrics describe the joys of driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, going to the beach, and enjoying the California sun. The song’s chorus is a simple but catchy repetition of the word “California”, which has made it a popular anthem for the state.
4. The Doors – “L.A. Woman”
“L.A. Woman” is a song by the American rock band The Doors, released in 1971. The song is the title track of the band’s final studio album with lead vocalist Jim Morrison, also titled “L.A. Woman”.
The song’s music is a fusion of blues rock, hard rock, and psychedelic rock, featuring a prominent driving guitar riff, a pounding drumbeat, and Morrison’s powerful, gritty vocals. The song’s lyrics describe the city of Los Angeles as a seductive, mysterious woman who draws people in with her beauty and charm, but ultimately leaves them feeling lost and alone.
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5. Eagles – “Hotel California”
“Hotel California” is a song by the American rock band Eagles, released in 1977. The song is one of the band’s most iconic and enduring hits, and it has become a beloved classic of the rock music canon.
The song’s music is a blend of rock, folk, and country influences, featuring a distinctive Spanish-style guitar riff that runs throughout the song. The song’s lyrics describe the experience of a traveler who enters a luxurious hotel in the middle of the night, only to find himself unable to leave. The lyrics are often interpreted as a metaphor for the excesses and decadence of the music industry, with the hotel representing a kind of purgatory for those who become trapped in its grip.
6. Lana Del Rey – “California”
“California” is a song by Lana Del Rey, released in 2015 as part of her fourth studio album, “Honeymoon”. The song is a dreamy, atmospheric ballad that showcases Del Rey’s signature blend of vintage Hollywood glamour and melancholic introspection.
The song’s music features a slow, languid tempo and lush, sweeping orchestration that creates a sense of nostalgic longing. Del Rey’s vocals are breathy and wistful, with lyrics that describe the allure of the California lifestyle, as well as its darker side.
7. Marlena Shaw – “California Soul”
“California Soul” is a song originally recorded by Marlena Shaw in 1969. The song was written by Ashford & Simpson, two of the most acclaimed songwriters of the Motown era, and it has become a beloved classic of the soul and funk genres.
The song’s music features a lively, upbeat groove that is driven by a funky bassline, bright horns, and a catchy guitar riff. Shaw’s vocals are powerful and soulful, and the song’s lyrics celebrate the carefree, bohemian lifestyle of California in the late 1960s.
8. Led Zeppelin – “Going to California”
“Going to California” is a song by the British rock band Led Zeppelin, released in 1971 on their fourth studio album, “Led Zeppelin IV”. The song is a gentle, acoustic ballad that features the beautiful harmonies of lead vocalist Robert Plant and backing vocalist Sandy Denny.
The song’s music is characterized by its simple, finger-picked guitar riff, which is accompanied by gentle percussion and soaring vocal harmonies. The lyrics describe a journey from the east coast of the United States to California, with references to the beauty of the natural world and the promise of new beginnings.
9. Beach Boys – “California Girls”
“California Girls” is a song by the American rock band The Beach Boys, released in 1965 on their ninth studio album, “Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!)”. The song is a celebration of the beauty and charm of California girls, and it has become an iconic anthem of the California lifestyle.
The song’s music features a catchy, upbeat melody with a prominent guitar riff and driving percussion. The lyrics describe the physical attributes and personality traits that make California girls so irresistible, including their tans, their style, and their free-spirited attitudes.
10. Lenny Kravitz – “California”
“California” is a song by American rock musician Lenny Kravitz, released in 1998 on his album “5”. The song is a funky, upbeat rock track that showcases Kravitz’s soulful vocals and groovy guitar work.
The song’s music is characterized by its funky bassline, driving drums, and energetic guitar riffs. The lyrics describe the allure of California and its vibrant culture, including its music, fashion, and lifestyle.
Songs about California have become an important part of American popular music. They celebrate the state’s vibrant culture, scenic beauty, and unique lifestyle. Artists across a range of genres, from rock and pop to hip-hop and soul, have written songs about California, capturing the state’s spirit and charm.
Given above songs continue to be enjoyed by music lovers around the world, and they have become iconic anthems of the California lifestyle.