San Francisco, California, is home to the Golden Gate Bridge and one of America’s most famous cities. The city is beautiful and has been the subject of many songs over the years, and we’re going to tell you the top 21 songs about San Francisco.
1. (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding
First on our list is Otis Redding with his hit song from 1968 (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, which is a classic song about the docks found in San Francisco. When you’re sitting on the dock, it’s a great time to reflect, and there’s a sense of calmness that you’ll feel.
The song was a hit and made it to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard Hot Rhythm & Blues Singles chart.
2. San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) – Scott McKenzie
Calling all Forrest Gump Fans, you may remember the song San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) playing in the movie, which was released in 1967 by Scott McKenzie. While the song was originally written by John Phillips, who was in The Mamas & The Papas, McKenzie covered it and is the version most people know.
When McKenzie made his recording, he wore flowers in his hair. The song was like an anthem when it was performed at the Monterey Pop Festival.
3. I Left My Heart In San Francisco – Tony Bennett
Released in 1962, the song I Left My Heart In San Francisco by Tony Bennett became a classic and is one of the most famous songs that people recall when they think about San Francisco. This song was written from the perspective of two writers that had moved to New York and longed to be back in San Francisco, so it’s a tribute to the city.
In 1984, the city of San Francisco adopted this song as one of the two anthems for the city, and the San Francisco Giants played the song after each win at the stadium. The Trailer Park Boys also use this song with the piano only in their television show.
4. Lights – Journey
Journey is next on our list, who released Lights from the 1978 album Infinity, and it’s one of the more memorable soft rock hits about San Francisco. There is a hook in the song that is in high harmony to make this one of the best about the city, and it was co-written by Steve Perry, who lived near San Francisco.
Interestingly, the song was supposed to be about Los Angeles, but “L.A.” was changed to “The Bay” when Perry became a group member. Inspiration for the song comes from the sunrise that rose across the Golden Gate Bridge that Perry saw one day.
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5. We Built This City – Starship
Starship released We Built This City in 1985 as the debut single from their album Knee Deep In The Hoopla. This song has a chorus that repeats and keeps you hooked throughout the song as it goes into a tribute to the city and the view you’ll see of the city if you’re on the Golden Gate Bridge.
This song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also landed on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart at number 37. It helped Starship gain fame in the music industry.
6. San Francisco – Judy Garland
Calling all Wizard Of Oz fans, did you know Judy Garland had a career in music? She had a beautiful voice, which you can hear in the movie, but her hit song San Francisco shows off her vocal talent. This song has Judy talking about traveling around the world but then heading back to San Francisco.
Interestingly, the song gives off the same feeling that there’s no place like home. It’s touching and nostalgic because she lists off names and talks about how she’s about to come home to San Francisco, so be ready for her.
7. Honeymoon In San Francisco – Of Montreal
Of Montreal released Honeymoon In San Francisco from the album The Bedside Drama: A Petite Tragedy in 1998. This is a more romantic slow song that goes into how you can visit San Francisco with your significant other and how beautiful the city is for a honeymoon or just for a romantic weekend for two. If you’ve just gotten married, this song details why the city is the best place because of its relaxing and lovely atmosphere that’ll get you in the mood for romance.
8. San Francisco Blues – Peggy Lee
San Francisco Blues by Peggy Lee is the perfect blues song about seeing all of the wonderful aspects of San Francisco, including visiting the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. It’s all about how her boyfriend ran off to paint, and she was stuck in the city, so she’s singing the blues. It’s written from the man’s perspective and how badly he treats Peggy Lee.
9. Save Me, San Francisco – Train
Next up on our list is rock band Train with their 2011 hit Save Me, San Francisco, which is from their album of the same name. This is a great song that goes into detail about Pat Monahan, the lead singer, going on a road trip and leaving San Francisco.
The road trip brings him to Seattle, and he talks about how unhappy he is, how much more he appreciates San Francisco, and his love for his hometown because it’s safe. Save Me, San Francisco was a hit and reached number six on the Adult Top 40 chart. It hit 75 on the Billboard Hot 100, 23 on the Adult Alternative Songs chart, and 15 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
10. San Francisco – Village People
While we know the Village People from their hit YMCA, the song San Francisco was their first hit, and it was recorded before the band had officially even formed! The song is all about the freedom you’ll find within San Francisco, and it quickly became a cult classic. At the time it was released, it had a large chorus which was not commonplace then.
Being the debut song from The Village People, it led the band to release similarly-styled songs, including Macho Man and YMCA. The disco-goers loved this song, and it remains a hit even today.
11. I’m Always Drunk In San Francisco – Carmen McRae
Released in early 1968, I’m Always Drunk In San Francisco by Carmen McRae isn’t about alcohol like most people think. The song is actually about San Francisco itself and how the city’s beauty is intoxicating. If you’ve ever been to San Francisco, then you’ll know how alluring and mesmerizing the sights and sounds are, which can make you feel like you’re drunk.
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12. Grace Cathedral Hill – The Decemberists
In 2002, The Decemberists released Grace Cathedral Hill from the album Castaways and Cutouts. This is a wonderful song that is obviously about Grace Cathedral, an episcopal church in the middle of San Francisco. People from all over visit this church and light candles outside on New Year, which is supposed to be when they pray to have a better future.
13. Cold Wind – Arcade Fire
Next up is Arcade Fire and their song Cold Wind, released in 2005, although it wasn’t on an album at first. People only heard the song when it was released as a track for Six Feet Under, an incredibly popular HBO show. The song is the opposite of most other songs about San Francisco since it’s somber and very dark as opposed to lighthearted about the city’s beauty. The song talks about laying flowers at a gravestone, whereas putting flowers in your hair is what we all have come to think of about San Francisco. Cold wind and not the sun or a light breeze is how the singer felt in the city, so it’s a more helpless indie rock song about the city.
14. Got The Gate On The Golden Gate – Mel Tormé
Mel Tormé released Got The Gate On The Golden Gate which is all about the Golden Gate Bridge and all of the themes and concepts that go with the Golden Gate Bridge. Mel Tormé was nicknamed The Velvet Fog for his smooth vocals and perfect timing, and you can hear that in this song that goes into depth about the Golden Gate Bridge and the beauty and meaning of this iconic part of San Francisco.
15. San Francisco Days – Chris Isaak
San Francisco Days is the title track to the album San Francisco Days by Chris Isaak, released in 1993. The song goes into detail about how the narrator hadn’t stopped having feelings for his past girlfriend and how special San Francisco was when he was with that previous lover.
He talks about how his mind and heart are still with his past lover, and it won’t change even if he meets someone else. It’s a classic rock song about love in the city and not being able to move on.
16. Fake Tales Of San Francisco – Arctic Monkeys
We have to include the Arctic Monkeys on our list with the hit song Fake Tales Of San Francisco, which was released in 2006 on the album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. This is a funny song because it’s making fun of other bands and their inauthenticity, so it’s a giant metaphor.
While bands credit San Francisco for being inspirational, the song goes into how those bands still create uninspirational songs. It hits back at rockers who get into drugs and sleazy adventures while in the city.
17. Saint Dominic’s Preview – Van Morrison
Van Morrison released Saint Dominic’s Preview in 1968, and this is a great song about the character moving to San Francisco from France, and it’s a perspective we don’t hear much about. Van Morrison wrote the song about his life and moving within that time, so you hear and feel the thoughts and emotions he had experienced.
18. San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native) – Fever Tree
You may not know the name Fever Tree, but you’ve likely heard the song San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native) because it was a massive hit in 1968. There were a lot of songs about San Francisco during the flower power era, and this one was one of those songs.
For Fever Tree, the song became their biggest single, and it was co-written by Michael Knust, who was the guitarist. What’s different about this song is that there are several tempo changes throughout, so it keeps you hooked from start to finish.
19. San Francisco Knights – People Under The Stairs
Next is a 1998 song from the debut album The Next Step by People Under The Stairs called San Francisco Knights. This is a song that has both a groovy vibe to it and feels like traditional West Coast hip hop that was popular during that time. There is disc scratching in the song, and it’s one of those songs that combines soft and harder hip hop elements to create this classic song.
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20. San Francisco – Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard
The 2009 song San Francisco by Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard is one of the more indie-rock songs on our list. The song details how San Francisco is seen, such as that while there are musicians and artists in the city, it’s also a dark place. There is poverty, drugs, and other issues that plague the city, so this is a much deeper and darker song filled with dramatic instruments and melodies.
21. San Franciscan Nights – Eric Burdon & The Animals
Eric Burdon & The Animals released San Franciscan Nights in 1967, and this song made it to number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Eric Burdon & The Animals are from England, and they wrote this song to protest the Vietnam War and how the city was able to keep going during those difficult times.
From the time she was little, Florence loved listening to music and quickly learned how music can make you happy and feel fulfilled. One of her favorite memories is being in the garage with her dad working on classic cars with the local rock station blaring in the background. Ever since Florence was 3, she loved grunge music and spent hours listening to bands such as Alice in Chains, Mad Season, Soul Asylum, and Soundgarden.
She also enjoys classic rock, modern rock, nu metal, alternative rock, and old 90’s R&B. Her love of music grew as she got older, and used music to help her get through tough times in her life. More often than not, you’ll see Florence with earbuds in while she’s writing, cooking, cleaning, and doing other tasks. She also loves to debate music with her friends such as which lead singer is the best vocalist, the most iconic guitar solos in music, and what songs are really the best of the decade.