A guide to the 101 best songs about California

With its dreamy landscapes and nearly year-round sunshine, California is the kind of place you could write songs about — and so many peo...


With its dreamy landscapes and nearly year-round sunshine, California is the kind of place you could write songs about — and so many people have.

Today we reveal our (very unscientific) list of the 101 best songs about the Golden State. This is a reading list that my colleague Jill Cowan created in 2019 and which I recently started adding based on your suggestions.

The music featured in the current iteration spans decades, genres, and geographies. On the list are 1966’s Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations,” LL Cool J’s “Goin Back to Cali,” and Haim’s 2020 bop “Los Angeles.”

As with any playlist, the California soundtrack is a work in progress that we will continue to edit and build on. You can email your recommendations to me at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

Below, I share some of the tracks that made the final cut along with your arguments for inclusion. I will post more of your submissions in the newsletter in the coming weeks.

You can browse the full list of 101 California Songs here Where Listen now.

But before continuing, my choice: Rilo Kiley’s “Let me come back infrom 2013. It’s an ode to Los Angeles that centers on what I’ve always loved about this city — that almost anyone can call it home.

Good listening.

“Lights” from Journey (1978)

“Journey is a Bay Area staple. ‘Lights’ is a love song for the city of San Francisco. The Giants will play ‘Lights’ between the seventh and eighth innings (if the Giants win) and the entire stadium sings and sways to the beat of the music. It’s wonderful!” — Robin Blair, Palo Alto

“California Gurls” by Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg (2010)

“I’m 64, born and raised in Southern California, and if there’s another song that describes life in my early years so well, I don’t know which one. retired to Arizona but Southern California will always be my home!!” — Cheryl Brown, Surprise, Ariz.

“Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2 (1987)

“It’s a song that anyone who’s been to the Mojave and experienced the heaviness of the universe and the fragility of its mortality would agree is about the spiritual growth that happens there. Not to mention that the album is called “Joshua Tree”. Ana Macias-Serpa, Arundel, Maine

“Pacheco / The Red-Tailed Hawk” by Kate Wolf (1983)

“As we drive home, heading north on Route 5 towards Santa Cruz, the song perfectly describes our journey and the ascent of Pacheco Pass. We always play it as we lead the pass. — Joyce Smith, Santa Cruz

“How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” by Florence and the Machine (2015)

“When I saw her in concert, she said she was inspired to write this song as she arrived to land at LAX.

On a personal note, my girlfriend and I were listening to this album while traveling along Highway 1 in Marin County in 2015 when we made a sharp turn towards an unobstructed view of the ocean just when where this song started playing. It was an ethereal, picture-perfect moment and I urge anyone who goes on a Highway 1 adventure to add it to their playlist. — Holly Ober, Riverside

“Ventura Highway” by America (1972)

“Every time I drive from my home in San Francisco to visit my daughter in Southern California, I remember putting on the 1972 U.S. release of ‘Ventura Highway’ as the ocean appears to the right of me. Highway 101 and the blue Pacific Ocean goes on seemingly forever until it merges into an equally blue sky. It’s mesmerizing and so Californian. — Kathleen Richter, San Francisco

  • Single payer: A bill that would have created the nation’s only government-funded universal health care system died in the State Assembly on Monday, The Associated Press reports.

  • The end of death row: After imposing a moratorium on executions in 2019, California is set to completely dismantle the country’s largest death row, The Associated Press reports.

  • Fast food coverage: A bill approved by the Assembly could establish several new employment standards for fast food workers, The Associated Press reports.

  • Police weapons: A new bill would require police officers to store their handguns and stun guns on separate sides of their gear belts to prevent accidental firing, The Associated Press reports.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

  • LA Homeless Community: In an abandoned building in Koreatown, homeless Angelenos live together in a space of their own, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • unlikely fishermen: A photojournalist takes us to a place where fishing seems almost provocative: Urban Los Angeles.

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA


For $1.9 million in California.


Today’s travel tip comes from Michael Hamilton, who recommends Peak of the Cumbrethe highest mountain overlooking Santa Barbara:

“At 3,900ft, it offers stunning 360 degree views – to the south is beautiful Santa Barbara and the ocean beyond, with views of five Channel Islands on a clear day. The view to the north is totally different: the hinterland of the Coast Ranges, surprisingly rugged and beautiful. There are some easy short walks for those like us who have driven to the top. But for two guys we met at the top, getting there was the end of a six hour walk on winding roads from the beach!”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Send your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We will share more in future editions of the newsletter.


As Valentine’s Day approaches, we ask questions about love: no Who you love, but What you love your corner of California.

Send us a love letter to your city, neighborhood, or region in California — or the entire Golden State — and we might share it in an upcoming newsletter. You can join the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.


Today is the Lunar New Year, which means the moon is entering a new phase, the Year of the Tiger is beginning, and many Asian families will be celebrate with cut fruit.

Eating or giving fruit is a beloved Lunar New Year tradition, with different fruits carrying different meanings.

Apples are believed to bring peace, as are pomelos. Golden fruits like oranges, tangerines, and kumquats are believed to bring wealth to those who eat them, as their golden colors are reminiscent of money.


Thanks for reading. I will be back tomorrow. — Soumya

PS Here today’s mini crosswordand a hint: Coin toss call (5 letters).

Mariel Wamsley and Jonah Candelario contributed to California Today. You can join the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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