Such A Winter's Day

"California Dreamin'"
The Mamas and the Papas
1965

Not all travel is moving forward. Eventually, you have to head home.

Homesickness is a powerful inspiration, as we already saw with Joni Mitchell's "California." Mitchell was homesick in sunny Greece, but nothing seems to inspire homesickness in a Californian like a cold, wet Northeastern winter.

The dreary New York winter of 1963 inspired John and Michelle Philips to write "California Dreamin'," a melancholy homesick classic. The second verse, where the singer ducks into a church to keep warm:

Stopped into a church I passed along the way,
Well, I got down on my knees, and I pretended to pray.
You know, the preacher like the cold, he knows I'm gonna stay.

was inspired by Michelle's visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral.

A few years later, the single launched John and Michelle's new band, The Mamas and The Papas. But the vocal tracks on the single were actually recorded as background vocals for another singer, Barry McGuire. When it came time to release their own album, the Mamas and the Papas simply stripped McGuire's lead out and added some tracks to their own background vocals. Or they tried to strip it out; McGuire's vocal can still be faintly heard over the opening of the Mams and the Papas recording.

"California Dreamin'" went on to be as famous in covers as it was in the original recording, sung or played by everyone from The Beach Boys to Nancy Sinatra to Queen Latifa to Meat Loaf. Even those who don't miss California understand homesickness, and homesickness has rarely been as powerfully expressed. As we close our year of 52 songs of travel, it's a reminder that no matter how many places there are to travel, sometimes there's no place like home.

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