2021 SONG DRAFT- ROUND 4 PICK 1- ECLECTIC MUSIC LOVER SELECTS- ‘CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’- THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS

The Mamas and the Papas Pictures | Music love, 1960s music, Mamas and papas

2021 SONG DRAFT- ROUND 4 PICK 1- ECLECTIC MUSIC LOVER SELECTS- ‘CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’- THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS.

One of my favorite songs of all time is “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas & the Papas (it ranks #3 behind Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and the long version of the Doors’ “Light My Fire”). It’s also unquestionably one of the most perfect songs ever recorded. Everything about it is magical: the simple but compelling lyrics, stellar arrangement, captivating instrumentals – most notably the haunting flute in the song’s bridge, and the gorgeous call and response vocal harmonies of the four band members – John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty & Cass Elliott.

Though they were only together as a band from 1965-68, The Mamas & the Papas released five studio albums and 17 singles, six of which made the Billboard top 10, and have sold nearly 40 million records worldwide. They were immensely popular, and are considered one of the defining music acts of the mid 1960s. The most striking aspect of their music were their incredible vocal harmonies.

“California Dreamin’” was written by John and Michelle Phillips in 1963 while they were living in New York City during a particularly cold winter. Michelle was feeling homesick for her home state of California (she was born in Long Beach and spent her childhood and teen years in Los Angeles and Mexico City). At the time, John and Michelle were members of the folk group the New Journeymen, which later evolved into the Mamas and the Papas with the addition of Denny Doherty and Cass Elliott.

The song was originally recorded by Barry McGuire, with John and Michelle singing backing vocals, and members of the Wrecking Crew playing instrumentals. Impressed by the Mamas and the Papas, Dunhill Records head Lou Adler had the track re-recorded with Denny singing lead vocals and paired with the same instrumental and backing vocal tracks, along with a stunning alto flute by Bud Shank and a guitar introduction played by P.F. Sloan. The song was released in December 1965, and ultimately peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1966.

Even though I was a California native who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, the song has always strongly resonated with me. I still vividly remember the time I heard it on the radio as a kid while riding in the car with my family from our home in Santa Clara up to San Francisco in February 1966. We were going to “The City” to watch the Chinese New Year’s Parade in Chinatown, but things weren’t looking very promising, as it was a gloomy day with rain in the forecast. To this day, I think of that trip to San Francisco whenever I hear “California Dreamin’”, and yes, it ended up raining on our parade. Many years later, I spent 17 years living in St. Louis, which has a lot of cold, gloomy weather in winter, and often found myself California dreamin’ during those periods.

All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown)
And the sky is grey (and the sky is grey)
I’ve been for a walk (I’ve been for a walk)
On a winter’s day (on a winter’s day)
I’d be safe and warm (I’d be safe and warm)
If I was in L.A. (if I was in L.A.)

California dreamin’ (California dreamin’)
On such a winter’s day

Stopped into a church
I passed along the way
Well, I got down on my knees (got down on my knees)
And I pretend to pray (I pretend to pray)
You know the preacher like the cold (preacher like the cold)
He knows I’m gonna stay (knows I’m gonna stay)

California dreamin’ (California dreamin’)
On such a winter’s day

All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown)
And the sky is grey (and the sky is grey)
I’ve been for a walk (I’ve been for a walk)
On a winter’s day (on a winter’s day)
If I didn’t tell her (if I didn’t tell her)
I could leave today (I could leave today)

California dreamin’ (California dreamin’)
On such a winter’s day (California dreamin’)
On such a winter’s day (California dreamin’)
On such a winter’s day

26 responses to “2021 SONG DRAFT- ROUND 4 PICK 1- ECLECTIC MUSIC LOVER SELECTS- ‘CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’- THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS

  1. Solid gold. Excellent pick. It’s a timeless atmospheric song with stellar harmonies in it. The flute elevates it. I like hearing about the personal connection the song has for you.

  2. Great song in every way. Can’t get better harmonies than they have here. My sweetie lived two years in greater LA , didn’t like it all that much but this is one of the few non-Beatles tracks from the 60s that she adores and will sing along to.

  3. Maybe one of the best pop songs from the 60s. Four people came together at the right time and place to produce a body of music that is to this day not equaled. I was a teenager in those years and this song resonates the times. Not political or about drug use, just the music and the voices speak of the sweetness and often turmoil the country was going through without actually saying. Good pick.

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