A Los Angeles Song that Defined a San Francisco Summer
By California Historical Society

On May 13, 1967, a catchy tune, San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in your Hair)—-chanted by the relatively unknown Southern California singer Scott Mckenzie—was released. The song, written by John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas and produced by Lou Adler  (a powerful duo from Los Angeles) would soon dominate the airwaves throughout California and the country.

Originally released to help promote the recently-announced Monterey International Pop Festival on June 16-18, the song would become one of the true anthems of the Summer of Love. The phrases “If you are going to San Francisco” and “wear flowers in your hair” would come to be associated with the San Francisco Bay Area ever since.

As  popular as the song became, it was always met with mixed emotions—if not outright scorn—-in San Francisco itself. The song, produced by Los Angeles music powers, described an existence in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood that wasn’t quite accurate and was released to help promote a music festival 90 miles South of the city in whose name it was written.

For 50 years, despite its global notoriety, the song has been a source of pride, scorn, covers, jokes and endless debates about the true meaning of the Summer of Love and counterculture era.

Today, we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the release of this iconic song. In the coming weeks, we will explore the debates about the song. Today,we listen to it!

 


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