Happy Bob Dylan’s birthday, everyone! Here’s a compilation of all the times Dylan has played the song live:
This is Miracle and I’s third time through The Golden State–once to visit our dear author friend, Jean Hegland, and then on our honeymoon in Palm Springs. Here’s a few tunes that remind us of one of our favorite places to visit.
California Soul: Written by Ashford & Simpson, most people will recognize the Terrell/Gaye version (or maybe even the Fifth Dimension version), but I love love love Marlena Shaw’s vocals. She’s pitch perfect for the lyrics and without the bombast of multiple performers trying to one-up each verse. Shaw just lets the song unfold and lets you feel it.
California Stars by Billy Bragg and Wilco: Confession time: I have never much cared for Wilco. I don’t know what it is about them, but they just don’t click for me. Except this song, which is transcendent. Feels like I am back in the redwood forest, staring up at the night sky through the canopy, everything spinning because I had a little too much wine.
California Love: Oh, hell yes. Take that trip up and down Cali, city-hopping with 2Pac and Dr. Dre. And the thing is, he is right—California knows how to party. Never before has synth and overproduction elevated something to art like this song that became the hulking flagship of 90s west coast rap. I can put this on a loop and listen to it all the way from LA to San Fran.
This is How We Do It: Speaking of west coast rap, how’s a little Montell Jordan, for ya? This staple from the roller rink days of my youth still slaps and with mentions of the 909 area code, it gets on to this list because, quite simply, this is how we do it.
San Francisco Days: The bay area holds a special place in my heart and I may just leave my heart in that city by the sea. Chris Isaak captures the breeziness, the dreaminess, the sheer love of the place with vocals only he could deliver. Just upbeat enough to keep us afloat, the song is still mellow and fun like a good summer cocktail.
California: I love the occasional Joni Mitchell song and whenever this one comes up, I can’t help but swoon along. Her love for the state, her longing, her ability to transport the narrator from Paris to the west coast is stunner storytelling. And just listen to that guitar in the background do some serious work. And of course it is not on Spotify.
Lullaby: It’s my list and I can do what I want, okay? That means if I want to include this dippy 90s song with contrived lyrics and a hokey refrain, I can. Besides, the song is great and they played it at my junior high school dances.
California: Deep cut from Dylan here that was released on the NCIS soundtrack(!). Really, it is an early version of the stellar 12-bar blues song, “Outlaw Blues.” Only this version gets in the commentary that California has but one season. Brilliant.
Things Have Changed: A bonus Dylan track! How can I leave this one and its mention of Hollywood out? For this song, Dylan recruited the Beastie Boys production team and the result is a dark song with a thumping beat and incredible lyrics that ended up being the banner track for one of my all-time favorite movies, Wonder Boys. Dylan won the Oscar for Best Song. And if you ever felt like Dylan is sanguine about his awards, think again. He travels with his Oscar statue and it sits out on stage with him for ever performance.