California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas

chords for california dreamin

California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas

California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas is one of the most iconic songs of all time. It exemplifies the California Sound of the ’60s and was the first big hit for the band.

Songwriter John Phillips gave the group (queen sized Cass Elliot and princess waif Michelle Phillips plus kingly Denny Doherty) the song. They recorded it with Barry McGuire and his orchestra before producer Lou Adler heard them and took over the project.


California Dreamin’ is a song by the American folk rock group The Mamas and the Papas. It was written in 1963, when the group was living in New York City and missing California. John Phillips wrote the first verse in one night while sitting at his piano, while Michelle Phillips contributed the second verse. The song is a tribute to the state of California and has become an iconic hit.

If you are a beginner guitar player, this is a good song to start with. It has a simple chord progression and is suitable for Grade 3+ students. You will need to use a capo on fret 4. You will also need to learn a suspended chord – E7sus4.

California Dreamin’ is in the key of C# Minor. This is a common key for folk rock songs. This is because the major and minor keys are equally popular for pop music. C# minor has a very pleasant sound and is easy to play. It is also the 9th most popular key among all minor keys in the TheoryTab database.

Verse 1

California Dreamin’ is one of the most iconic songs from the ’60s. It’s a timeless pop classic and a counterculture anthem. It’s also a reminder of the dream of California. The song mentions warm Los Angeles and contrasts it with cold New York City. The song has been covered by dozens of artists, from The Beach Boys to Bobby Womack and Sia. The song has even been used in television shows and movies, including Mission: Impossible and German techno.

John Phillips wrote the song in the winter of 1963, while he and his wife Michelle were living in New York. The couple would later become members of the folk group The Mamas & the Papas.

The song was originally recorded by Barry McGuire as a single. Producer Lou Adler was impressed with the backing vocals by The Mamas & the Papas and decided to let them release the song on their own. The song was released in December 1965, backed by ‘Somebody Groovy’.

The lyrics to the first verse of California Dreamin’ are about a narrator who wishes they could leave New York for warmer weather in Los Angeles. It’s a common trope in 60’s pop, with songs by Joni Mitchell, Harry Nilsson, and Simon and Garfunkel all using similar lyrics. The chorus of the song features a call-and-response between the narrator and their love interest. The narrator asks the girl to “come on down to California” and she agrees.

Verse 2

The second verse of a song often continues the story or topic introduced in the first verse. It might also offer new insights or variations on the theme. This technique works well in genres that emphasize storytelling like country and folk.

You can also use a second verse to build up the musical intensity. For example, if your first verse has light accompaniment, you could use the second verse to add some extra instruments or build up the backing rhythmic intensity. This can make the transition from one verse to the next feel more dynamic and engaging for listeners.

A second verse can also explore a different set of emotions or themes. For example, if the first verse was about loneliness, your second verse might focus on being happy with yourself. This is a good approach for songs with a positive message that are trying to inspire their listeners.

Changing the dynamics of your second verse can be a great way to keep listeners engaged. For instance, you might change the drum beat or add a lot of vocal harmonies in verse two to make it sound different from verse one. However, you should be careful not to overdo it, as this can distract listeners and make your song seem gimmicky. You also want to be sure that you don’t overshadow the chorus and bridge with too much vocal attention.

Verse 3

When it comes to ’60s hits, few are more iconic than California Dreamin’. It was one of The Mamas and the Papas’ first singles and is seen as the embodiment of California’s cool counterculture. But despite the song’s popularity, many people don’t know its interesting history or how it came to be.

In 1963, newlyweds John and Michelle Phillips wrote the song while living in New York City. It’s a simple, straightforward tune about a narrator longing for warmer, clear-skied California. They were inspired by their own experience – during the cold winter of NYC, “all the leaves are brown and all the sky is grey” (one of the most iconic lines in the song’s opening verse).

The Phillipses were introduced to Dunhill Records producer Lou Adler by Barry McGuire, who recorded the song on his This Precious Time album. McGuire, who had a massive hit with his take on PF Sloan’s apocalyptic protest song ‘Eve of Destruction’, used The Mamas and the Papas as backing vocalists on his recording. He also had session gods the Wrecking Crew play on the track. Adler liked what he heard and encouraged The Mamas and the Papas to record the song themselves.

They used the same instrumental tracks on their version, but had Denny Doherty re-record the lead. It’s fair to say that the change radically improved the record. They also added Bud Shank’s flute solo, which made the final product something special.

Verse 4

California Dreamin’ is a classic song that was written by the Mamas and the Papas. It’s one of the most iconic songs that came out of the 1960s, and it’s still popular today. It’s a song about missing home in California. The song was written by John and Michelle Phillips, who were members of the New Journeymen group that later became the Mamas and the Papas.

The song was written in the cold winter of 1963 when the newlyweds were living in New York City. The cold weather made them miss sunny California, and inspired the song. John would often work on compositions late at night, and he woke up Michelle with the first verse of California Dreamin’ one morning. The couple recorded the song as part of their debut album This Precious Time in 1964. The song was a huge hit, and it gave the band their first number one single.

The song is notable for featuring a smokin’ flute solo by jazz blower Bud Shank. He had previously collaborated with composer Lalo Schifrin, and he also played on the hit songs You Are So Beautiful and Somebody Groovy. The song was covered by many artists, but none have come close to matching the magic of the original version by the Mamas and the Papas. The song is still a staple on radio stations and is a favorite among ’60s music lovers.


A classic folk song that is easy for a beginner guitarist to play! Learn how to play this late 60s folk rock classic by The Mamas and the Papas. This guitar lesson is perfect for Grade 3+ students.

Inspired by a frigid New York winter and a homesickness for California, the husband-and-wife writing duo John and Michelle Phillips penned “California Dreamin” back in 1963. The couple would go on to found the folk group The New Journeymen, which ultimately evolved into The Mamas and the Papas. “California Dreamin’” spent 17 weeks on the charts and is widely regarded as an anthem for West Coast counterculture.

The song has been covered by many artists, including Bobby Womack, Guster, and Sia. But none have come close to matching the original by The Mamas and the Papas. The iconic version peaked at #4 on the US Billboard chart in 1966.

Interestingly enough, The Mamas and the Papas were not really Californians (John was from South Carolina, Cass Elliot was born in Maryland, and Denny Doherty was from Nova Scotia, Canada). Despite their non-Californian background, the group nailed their sound with an eclectic mix of sounds that fused folk music with a heavier pop and rock beat. It is this blend that made them so appealing to audiences all over the world.