You’d be hard-pressed to find a state with California’s musical track record. Countless artists have been inspired by the Golden State’s landscapes, culture, people, and state of mind—enough to write songs about their experiences and observations. A small sampling of these can be found on lists like Billboard’s 15 best songs about California, BuzzFeed’s 27 Songs for a California State of Mind, or The Mercury News’ Ultimate California playlist.
As part of our ongoing California Questionnaire series of interviews, we ask notable Californians what they thought was the best state song. Spoiler alert: One late hip-hop artist produced a common favorite.
"San Francisco (Open Your Golden Gate)." It is from the 1936 movie San Francisco, starring Jeanette MacDonald and Clark Gable.
– Chef Alice Waters
Has to be “California Love” by Tupac. It’s the song that plays when Dodger closer Kenley Jansen warms up, so it means we’re about to win another game.
– Dodgers’ center fielder Joc Pederson
The lyrics of Led Zeppelin’s “Going to California” are fairly incomprehensible, but I don’t know of a song that better captures the weird melancholy of the “good life” here. And then there’s John Doe’s “The Golden State,” a beautifully made song that gets everything right about the state: its grandeur, the hopes it crushes, the hopes it keeps reviving.
– Author Jonathan Franzen
“Shores of California” by The Dresden Dolls.
– Comedian Margaret Cho
“California Love” by Tupac featuring Dr. Dre. Because truer words have never been spoken… California knows how to party.
– Actress Kristen Bell
"California Girls" by The Beach Boys. It speaks volumes about our most popular asset, the beach, and the youthful energy that is present when you grow up here.
– Musician Tom Delonge
I could go classic but for more uplift I’ll say “California Gurls” by Katy Perry.
– Journalist and host Natalie Morales
For me, the first time I ever drove across the Golden Gate Bridge—in a convertible, mind you—“Hotel California” came on the radio. So, personally, it’s kind of a big deal for me.
– Chef Richard Blais
“California Dreamin’” by The Mamas and The Papas. This song truly captures a moment in history and a growing vibe in California leading up to the Summer of Love.
– Russian River Brewing Company co-owner Natalie Cilurzo
"California Love” by Tupac. When I traveled a lot as a young soccer player, I would listen to that song on the airplane ride home to remind me of my beautiful home state. It will forever be etched in my mind.
– Soccer star Landon Donovan