San Francisco, California

San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) by Scott McKenzie

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If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there Read full Lyrics
This well-known California city has several songs either about the city itself or parts thereof, such as the famous Golden Gate Bridge. "San Francisco," from the 1936 MGM movie musical of the same name, and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," made famous by Tony Bennett, are two songs which certainly promote the City by the Bay.

But the subject of this article features a more recent and certainly popular song sometimes referred to as "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)."

Can a song influence people to do certain things? The original recording was by Scott McKenzie. It reached #1 in the UK and Europe and #4 in the United States. Many millions of copies were sold and there is good evidence to support the claim that hordes of young people moved to San Francisco as a result of the lyrics in this song. Thousands arrived in San Francisco in the late '60s, not long after the release of the song in 1967.

The Golden Gate Bridge<br>Photo: Bette KestinThe Golden Gate Bridge
Photo: Bette Kestin
Then in Prague in 1968, during the local uprising, the song was played at rallies in support of those who campaigned for freedom.

Cover versions have been recorded by a wide variety of artists including Led Zeppelin, the Global Deejays, and even the rappers San Quinn and Boo Banga. Disney plays the song in its California Adventure and movies such as Frantic and Forrest Gump have featured the song. The 101 Strings Orchestra performed it for the film Born on the Fourth of July. In short, it's a hit.

The song was hugely popular in the summer of 1967 when hordes of young people arrived in San Francisco. Many who could not find accommodation elsewhere settled in a district of the city known as Haight-Ashbury, or simply The Haight. The area got its name from two major streets which in turn were named after Messrs Haight and Ashbury, prominent citizens of the city in its formative years.

So if you want to see the place where the so-called hippie culture or the Beat generation was formed, take a trip down memory lane in this fascinating part of town.

Many streets are lined with 19th century multi-storied wooden houses which have become synonymous with the history of the area. When a freeway was proposed to run through The Haight, many locals sold up fearing the value of their property would plummet. But other locals opposed the plans and the freeway was never built. This meant there was plenty of cheap housing for the hippies who arrived at that time.

If you know your popular music of the period, you can visit where famous performers such as Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Janis Joplin all lived within The Haight.

So where did "flower power" take root? Where did runaway teenagers and the multitude of hippies with their philosophy of pot and free love set up home? Slap bang in the middle of The Haight. And in some ways the area has not changed at all from those heady days of the 1960s.

Today The Haight has thriving small businesses, bars and restaurants. In June the Haight-Ashbury Fair stops traffic as sound stages are erected and locals and tourists flood the now famous streets.

But if you go be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

Cen Fox
May 4, 2009
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