Imagine you’re planning a road trip along the length of the California coast, from Imperial Beach to Crescent City.
You’re all packed, and you know where you’re stopping along the way. But what music will you listen to in the car? What songs perfectly capture the Golden State in all its messy glory?
This is, essentially, the pursuit of the California Soundtrack, our playlist that tries to put all California-focused and California-inspired tracks in one place. For the past three years, we’ve been periodically updating the playlist based on your many, many wonderful suggestions.
Today, I’ve added a few dozen more of your picks. Some of the most recommended in this round were “California 1” by Con Funk Shun (1981), “Bixby Canyon Bridge” by Death Cab for Cutie (2008) and “Hollywood Swinging” by Kool & the Gang (1974).
You can peruse the full list of California songs here (the latest additions are in bold) or listen here.
As always, the California Soundtrack is a work in progress that we’ll continue editing and building. Email your Golden State song recommendation and a few lines about why you think it deserves inclusion to [email protected]
And now for some of your latest choices:
“The Ghost of Tom Joad” by Bruce Springsteen (1995)
“While I could have suggested a slew of upbeat or uplifting tunes, I chose this one as a reminder that the dark underbelly of the Golden State is ever-present and cannot be ignored. Over a quarter-century since it was first recorded — and well over three-quarters of a century after publication of the Steinbeck novel that inspired it — this song still resonates with astonishing clarity.” — Brian Bauman, Eureka
“The Pretender” by Jackson Browne (1976)
“It captures the California spirit of persistence and fresh starts. The idea that we will keep pressing forward, even when the bloom is off the rose.” — Mark Hartung, San Jose
“Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dogg (1993)
“If you’ve been to a house party in CA anywhere from the mid ’90s to like the early 2000s and you didn’t hear this song, chances are you were in fact not at what we commonly call a ‘party.’ That was, and I’m sorry to say, a meeting. If ‘Gin and Juice’ is not playing, then that is not a party. Think of it like those SAT questions, ‘Gin and Juice’ is to parties as Snoop Dogg is to L.A.; vital.” — Rishu Bhardwaj, Orange County
“All the Gold in California” by Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers Band (1979)
“Growing up in the ’70s in the suburbs of the San Francisco Peninsula, my parents were country music fans and we did a lot of camping and driving up to the Sierras. On the drives we’d listen to country radio.
I was young enough and seduced enough by ’70s country culture and my parents’ preferences that I thought the music was cool. Of course now it’s cool to me again.
It’s a sing-out-loud-in-your-car anthem that captures the challenges and triumphs of living in our state. It feels resonant to me even now as a resident of one of our country’s most expensive yet vibrant cities, San Francisco.” — Kendra Smith, San Francisco
“99 Miles from L.A.” by Albert Hammond (1975)
“It takes me back to the days before I-5 connected the West Coast and old 99 was the route to travel from the Pacific Northwest to Los Angeles, with the miles a blur of telephone poles, road signs and row crops.” — Kathie Philp, Jacksonville, Ore.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Stephen Avis, who recommends visiting the city of Ferndale in Humboldt County:
“Ferndale is situated at the edge of the redwood forests and the Pacific Ocean. The climate mirrors that of San Francisco, 260 miles to the south. Mild winters and cool summers with fog.
The community is isolated from most of Humboldt County by the Eel River. A historic and stunning concrete bridge spans the river. A five-mile drive to Ferndale traverses dairy farms and grazing dairy cows.
Founded in the late 1800s, much of the town’s original buildings still stand, displaying a range of Victorian residential and commercial buildings.
A vibrant community, the city boasts a community center, live performance theater, live music theater and numerous restaurants. Parades draw large crowds as does the annual switching on of holiday lights on the nation’s tallest living Christmas tree.
Friendly residents greet visitors downtown and at the local museum. But it is the natural setting of lovely architecture framed by dramatic mountains that drives home the beauty and tranquillity of Ferndale.
Hope you get a chance to see Ferndale yourself one day. It is a gem.”
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.
Parents, children and teachers: How are you feeling about the start of a new school year?
Email us at [email protected] with your hopes, fears and stories. Please include your name and the city that you live in.
And before you go, some good news
Twenty-seven years ago, Jennifer Tan was a 5-year-old at San Francisco’s Gordon Lau Elementary School.
Among the many things she still remembers from kindergarten: the posters on the wall, the time she got in trouble for talking in line and, of course, her teacher, Gloria Choy.
Tan says that Choy taught her not only how to read, but also how to be a good person.
Now, Tan is 32, and works as a teacher at the same school, in the Chinatown neighborhood where she grew up. She passes by her old classroom every day, and waves to her former teacher, who is now her boss: Principal Choy.
“Now she talks back,” Choy said, teasing her former student.
Read the full story in The San Francisco Chronicle.
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