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Cities in California that inspired a song

Updated on October 21, 2014
Monterey Wharf and Harbour area
Monterey Wharf and Harbour area


This song was written by Mabel Wayne and Billie Rose. This song was written in 1930, but Frank makes it seem timeless.

We all know those songs that mention the state of California, songs like California Dreaming, California Girls, etc. What about those songs that mention cities in California? It is through those songs that we have a yearning to go see the cities for ourselves. That may not be possible, but we can always travel there in our minds and enjoy the lyrics that bring those cities to the forefront and California cities have inspired some great songs.

It Happened in Monterey is a song that was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1956 from the album Songs For Swingin Lovers. This song definitely swings it is the song with an upbeat tempo, even though it reveals a love no longer happening. A couple meets in the town of Monterey beginning a relationship that ended because the guy in the song decided to leave the town and the girl. Though it was years later the singer still has vivid memories of their time together and the listener will remember too because the words and music tell the story so perfectly. Monterey sounds like a charming place to go visit.

Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge

The song title of I Left My Heart In San Francisco was originally going to be called “When I Return to San Francisco” , but the song writers didn’t really like that so they then came up with “When I Come Home” which wasn’t what they wanted, then they decided on the title that everyone knows “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”.

I Left My Heart in San Francisco is a signature song by Tony Bennett. This song equals Tony Bennett just as New York New York equals Frank Sinatra. This song ironically enough was written in Brooklyn, New York in 1953 and it was recorded by Tony Bennett, a native New Yorker, in 1962. The writers of the song were from San Francisco and were living in New York when then wrote this beautiful song. It is truly a love song for the city with visuals in every lyric from cable cars, the fog, and the sea. Tony brings the song to life and you know the person in this song will not be in New York for long for the tug of San Francisco pulls him back.

Bakersfield, California
Bakersfield, California


Buck Owens recorded the song in 1973, but it wasn’t until Dwight Yoakam asked Buck Owens to sing the song with him in that it reached Number One. Buck hadn’t seen a number one record since 1972 and he would never see a number one again.

Dwight Yoakam
Dwight Yoakam

The Streets of Bakersfield by Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam was recorded in 1988 and it was a song that brought Buck Owens back in the public eye. The song is about a person down on his luck and who ends up in jail, but throughout the song the beat is so lively you feel like dancing. The guy wants to start a better life and he chooses to do it in Bakersfield. It is a song with a Mexican style sound and one hopes the character in the song finds life easier soon.


The song I Love L.A. is played whenever a score is made or a team wins by such teams as the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Galaxy, and the Los Angeles Kings.

Randy Newman in 2012
Randy Newman in 2012

I Love L.A.- recorded by Randy Newman in 1983 takes the listener all around Los Angeles from the east side to the west side, from the rich neighborhoods to the poor. All the while placing the hook in the lyrics with “I love L.A. “ and “We love it”. This song is so infectious you want to cruise around the city with Randy listening to the Beach Boys on the car’s stereo and taking in the beauty of Los Angeles. Randy made a memorable music video with all the sites he mentions in his song.

Sausalito Summer Nights is a song performed by a group called Diesel in 1983. This song was performed by a Dutch group and it is a song that should not be forgotten because it has such a different sound. The song rumbles along as if you were driving down the highway and it doesn’t let up. The guitar riff begins at the beginning of the song and pops up throughout it. The singer is having car problems, but doesn’t seemed to concerned taking time to grab a burger and a root beer and determined to get to L.A. this is one fun song. This group should have had more songs because this song is a pop masterpiece.


In an interview in Ebony magazine Dionne said she had to be convinced to record Do You Know the way to San Jose she said the 1963 interview, “it was a dumb song and I didn’t want to sing it. But it was a hit, just like Heartbreaker is. I am happy these songs are successful, but that still doesn’t change my opinion about them.” The song is still popular today and is included in every one of Dionne’s performances.

Do You Know The Way To San Jose?- a song recorded by Dionne Warwick in 1968 by the talented writing duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It was Dionne’s third top ten and it earned Dionne her first Grammy. It is a smooth pop song and though the lyrics are of the singer’s disappointment of not making it in Los Angeles you have a feeling that the singer isn’t too broken up about returning to her hometown of San Jose.

Pasadena, California aerial shot
Pasadena, California aerial shot


It was in the early 1960’s that Dodge was running a popular commercial featuring a white haired elderly lady racing down the street in a modified Dodge. She would stop look out the window and say “Put a Dodge in your garage, Hon-ey!” The actress was named Kathryn Minner.

Little Old Lady from Pasadena- a cute song by Jan and Dean recorded in 1964. This was during the surf and car craze of the early 1960’s. The little old lady in the song not only owned a super stock Dodge she dragged raced with it. The song made it to number 3 on the Billboard charts.


The song was written in 1954 by Jesse Fuller and it is a blues song but with a different sound, in fact the song brought a revival to the folk music scene.

San Francisco Bay Blues- Eric Clapton recorded this tune in 1992 and it is such a fun number. It has an old timey sound, but still at the same time, sounds current. It is a song that conjures up San Francisco by the bay. The singer is missing his girlfriend and hopes to get her back. It is a song that has been done by Peter, Paul, and Mary, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Phobe Snow and others. There is a reason this song has been done so many times and why it has endured the test of time. Good songs never fade and this is one good song.


This song was their first release in four years and the fifth album Train had made. The lead guitarist Jimmy Sanford said it was in this album they tried to get back to their San Francisco roots and it must have worked because the album went gold in 2010.

Save Me San Francisco-recorded by Train it was recorded in 2011. The song is about a guy that needs to get back to his hometown of San Francisco. In the song we hear about the infamous cable cars, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. The video by Train of Save Me San Francisco shows some beautiful views of the city.

California has inspired movies, television, novels, and in this case songs. The songs about the cities in California can take the listener all around the state, and make you wish you could be there and experience it yourself. Listen to these tunes and you will find yourself taken there if only for a few minutes.


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    • cfjots profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Conway, SC

      Thank you tillsontitan for all the great things you had to say about my article. I had fun writing it and exploring California is a fun way.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      3 years ago from New York

      What a fun tour! There's nothing like music to get the heart going, the foot thumping and the brain thinking. You've chosen some great songs and the videos are certainly contagious.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.


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