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).
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 CAToday@nytimes.com. 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
“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
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Jeff Cook, who recommends a spot near Oracle Park, home of the Giants:
“One of the delights of having a ballpark near the water is the partylike atmosphere in McCovey Cove. Named after the Giants slugger Willie McCovey, the Cove gives you a chance to raft up with fellow boaters for a picnic, kayak near the right-field fence while waiting for a Splash Ball, and hear the roar from the fans at Oracle Park when the Giants reach base.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
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.