We’re Adding New Songs to Our California Soundtrack

Pictures of late pop culture icons at Amoeba Music in Hollywood.Credit…Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

Joni Mitchell’s classic tune in which she warbles, “California, I’m coming home.” Or Otis Redding’s hit song inspired by the rolling tides of the San Francisco Bay, as seen from a houseboat in Sausalito. Or Tupac Shakur’s ode to the West Coast, the quintessential “California Love.”

What songs best define California, this vast confounding wonderland, and the millions of us who live here? That’s what we’re trying to figure out.

The California Soundtrack is a project of this newsletter that tries to capture the Golden State’s complexity and diversity through music. For months, we’ve been growing our playlist dedicated to all things California, adding songs based largely on your recommendations.

Today, I have about 20 additional tracks for your listening pleasure. Among the most requested this round were “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan (1995), “California Child” by Jesse Colin Young (1974) and “El Cerrito” by Cracker (2014).

You can peruse the full list of California songs here (the newest additions are in bold) or listen to them here.

As always, the California Soundtrack is a work in progress. Email your song recommendation and a few lines about why you think it deserves to be included to [email protected]. Please include your name and the city where you live.

And now for some of the musings you shared about these songs:

“Hooray for Hollywood” by Richard A. Whiting (1937)

“Coming of age in the Midwest in the 1960s, I heard the song on the Oscar presentations and in some Warner Bros. cartoons and Jack Benny used it on his radio show. I just always associated the tune with Hollywood and showbiz. Pretty exotic stuff for a Waterloo, Iowa, kid who dreamed of living in California and working on animated cartoons!” — John Makinster, Poway

More on California

  • A Rare Phenomenon: An inlet on Lake Tahoe has frozen over for what appears to be the first time in three decades, leaving some locals in awe.
  • A Remarkable Recovery: Northern elephant seals, which are native to the waters off the West Coast, were hunted nearly to extinction. Now, they are believed to number more than 175,000.
  • Arthur Simms: The artist, whose work is on display at Karma Gallery in Los Angeles, transforms inspirations into poetic assemblages wrapped in hemp.
  • Proposition 22: A California appeals court said that the ballot measure, which was passed by state voters in 2020 and classified Uber and Lyft drivers as independent contractors rather than as employees, should remain state law.

“San Francisco” by Maxime Le Forestier (1972)

“It’s an idyllic folk song that captures the beauty of the bohemian community that the French singer found in San Francisco at its hippie prime. Le Forestier sings of a blue house where the residents live a carefree life filled with good friends, good music, good food and good herb — all the things that defined ‘the good life’ in the city where I grew up, before tech took over the town.” — Monique Nakagawa, San Mateo

“Grass Valley” by Molly Tuttle (2022)

“This beautiful, catchy folk song pays tribute to both Grass Valley and Nevada City, two historic gold rush towns in the Sierra foothills that are popular with musicians and music lovers. Despite their small size, the two towns are home to many artists and performers and regularly host events like the Strawberry Music Festival.” — Nelle Engoron, Nevada City

“West Coast Town” by Chris Shiflett (2017)

“Chris Shiflett, lead guitarist of Foo Fighters, is a proud Santa Barbaran (Santa Barbarian?). This song not only directly talks about his time growing up here, but also perfectly showcases Southern California’s weird mix of surf, punk and country cultures.” — Juan Salgado, San Diego

“In Tiburon “ by Van Morrison (2016)

“This is probably the most evocative song about San Francisco I’ve ever heard. It references the city in the ’60s and mentions Chet Baker, Vince Guaraldi, Lenny Bruce, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and some of the best places in San Francisco and environs, including the Cliff House, the No Name Bar in Sausalito and the City Lights bookstore. You could create a travelogue based on this song.” — Gretchen Wright, San Francisco

“Camarillo” by Fear (1982)

“A song about a state-run psychiatric institution, now the site of the campus of Cal State Channel Islands, by one of the pre-eminent L.A. punk bands of the ’80s. What else needs to be said?” — Jeff Berke, Calabasas

Gov. Gavin Newsom announcing a $100 billion economic recovery package in 2021, which included stimulus checks for Californians.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The rest of the news

  • Pandemic relief ending: Pandemic relief initiatives helped lift many Californian families out of poverty, but now the state’s child care subsidy is expiring, The Guardian reports.

  • Proposed ballot measure: California voters would decide whether to fund a major expansion of housing and treatment for residents with mental illness and addiction under the latest proposal by Gov. Gavin Newsom, The Associated Press reports.

  • Toxic chemicals: California lawmakers are pushing forward a first-of-its-kind bill that seeks to rid food products of five chemicals linked to cancer and developmental issues in children, The Hill reports.


  • School shutdown: Tens of thousands of Los Angeles school employees are planning to strike for three days, starting today, in support of demands for higher pay.

  • Antisemitism: Two officers in the Torrance Police Department have been accused of spray-painting swastikas inside the towed vehicle of a man arrested on suspicion of mail theft, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • The Lucas Museum: George Lucas’s billion-dollar museum is finally coming into focus in Los Angeles. Officials say it should be fully operational by 2025.


  • Evacuations: Thousands of people in the San Joaquin Valley have been ordered to leave their homes because of swollen rivers and creeks, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.


  • New buildings: Six buildings proposed in downtown Berkeley that are 16 to 28 stories would paint a new picture for the skyline, which currently has only three towers over 12 stories, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Credit…Andrew Purcell for The New York Times.

What we’re eating

Sichuan chile crisp sundae with peanut streusel is an unexpected combination that works.

Credit…Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Jeff Cook, who recommends a spot near Oracle Park, home of the Giants:

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Anza-Borrego Desert State ParkCredit…Mario Tama/Getty Images

And before you go, some good news

Go on a wine-tasting tour in the Santa Ynez Valley or stargaze in Anza Borrego.

The Los Angeles Times compiled a guide to the 11 best road trips to take in California this spring. Our recent wild weather has made a few of the spots difficult to access, but there are still some great picks if you’re looking for ideas for a spring break trip.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Briana Scalia and Fariha Rahman contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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