Song Lyric Sunday — California Dreamin’

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday theme, Jim Adams is celebrating the Fourth of July, America’s Independence Day, by asking us focus on American music, which is any song played by an American group. I was originally going to go with Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” but then I remembered that I had already used that song for a Song Lyric Sunday post on October 6, 2019.

So then it was back to the drawing board. And that’s when I came up with “California Dreamin’” from the Mamas and the Papas. Few songs evoke the warmth and freedom of America’s dream with more beauty and charm than that song.

“California Dreamin’” was written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips and was first recorded by Barry McGuire. However, the best-known version is by the Mamas and the Papas, who sang backup on the original version. They released the song as a single in 1965.

When the group was just starting out in 1965, their friend Barry McGuire helped them get a contract with his record label, Dunhill Records. McGuire recorded the first version of the song with the Mamas and the Papas as his backing band and with a harmonica solo instead of a flute. The Mamas and the Papas then decided to record it on their own, with Denny Doherty (the other Papa) singing lead and with some chord changes he came up with after consulting the session guitarist, P.F. Sloan, who had him listen to “Walk – Don’t Run” by The Ventures. The results were impressive, and Dunhill Records agreed to use it as the group’s first single, holding off on McGuire’s version so there wouldn’t be competition from an established artist.

The single, though, was was not an immediate breakthrough. After gaining little attention in Los Angeles upon its release, a radio station in Boston was the catalyst to breaking the song nationwide. After making its chart debut in January 1966, the song peaked at No. 4 in March on the Billboard Hot 100, lasting 17 weeks.

Michelle Phillips explained that the song came about when she was newly married to John Phillips. They were living in New York City, which was having a particularly cold winter, at least by Michelle’s standards, as she was from sunny California. John would walk around the apartment at night working out tunes, and one morning brought the first verse of the song to Michelle. It was a song about longing to be in another place, and it was inspired by Michelle’s homesickness.

Here are the lyrics to the song.

All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown)
And the sky is grey (and the sky is grey)
I’ve been for a walk (I’ve been for a walk)
On a winter’s day (on a winter’s day)
I’d be safe and warm (I’d be safe and warm)
If I was in L.A. (if I was in L.A.)

California dreamin’ (California dreamin’)
On such a winter’s day

Stopped into a church
I passed along the way
Well, I got down on my knees (got down on my knees)
And I pretend to pray (I pretend to pray)
You know the preacher like the cold (preacher like the cold)
He knows I’m gonna stay (knows I’m gonna stay)

California dreamin’ (California dreamin’)
On such a winter’s day

All the leaves are brown (all the leaves are brown)
And the sky is grey (and the sky is grey)
I’ve been for a walk (I’ve been for a walk)
On a winter’s day (on a winter’s day)
If I didn’t tell her (if I didn’t tell her)
I could leave today (I could leave today)

California dreamin’ (California dreamin’)
On such a winter’s day (California dreamin’)
On such a winter’s day (California dreamin’)
On such a winter’s day

25 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — California Dreamin’

  1. Steve Tanham July 4, 2021 / 3:07 am

    Loved that song… so full of life, as most of their music was

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lolsy's Library July 4, 2021 / 3:45 am

    I don’t know if you know who French and Saunders are, but they do a REALLY good rendition of it, hehe

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango July 4, 2021 / 6:56 am

      I’ve never heard of them. I’ll have to Google them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. willowdot21 July 4, 2021 / 5:42 am

    Wonderful, what a voice Mama Cass had …this song always makes me cry.💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango July 4, 2021 / 11:32 am

      Thanks, Christine.

      Like

  4. newepicauthor July 4, 2021 / 6:39 am

    Such a great choice for today Fandango. How is your California weather today? I hope you have a great holiday.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango July 4, 2021 / 6:59 am

      Sunny and 79. I hope the rain has stopped where you are and that you’ll be able to grill your sausages.

      Liked by 1 person

      • newepicauthor July 4, 2021 / 7:40 am

        I could deal with 79, that sounds perfect. It is mostly cloudy here now which is a good thing because it keeps things from getting too hot but we have a storm heading towards us now.

        Liked by 1 person

          • newepicauthor July 4, 2021 / 12:52 pm

            Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to make landfall north of Tampa, Florida, Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning, which is only 60 miles west of me.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. amoralegria July 4, 2021 / 9:50 am

    Great song, but I wouldn’t want to be in California right now!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango July 4, 2021 / 1:37 pm

      That’s where I am! Dreaming of rain.

      Like

  6. aisasami July 10, 2021 / 10:27 pm

    Wonderful choice! I love this song so much as I love the vocals.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango July 10, 2021 / 11:02 pm

      It is a great song.

      Like

  7. leigha66 July 17, 2021 / 12:16 pm

    Been a favorite of mine for years. Great song choice!

    Liked by 1 person

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