The Mamas & the Papas

California Dreamin'

Composed by John Phillips / Michelle Phillips

Song Review by

Written on a freezing New York winter evening long before the Mamas & the Papas ever existed, "California Dreamin'" neatly encapsulated the feeling of longing as well as a desire to lead a freer, more spiritually fulfilling life. What a '60s dream! Well, it certainly came true, and not just for the members of the Mamas, but for a lot of people who first heard the song back in the winter of 1966. The song's easy grace and subtle message is positively irresistible, and brought home even more by the Mamas & Papas' awesome vocal pyrotechnics. One of the first records that the group ever cut, the song was actually first recorded by Barry McGuire -- utilizing the same track (sans Bud Shank's elegant flute solo) -- and was slated to be the follow-up to his hit "Eve of Destruction" until Denny Doherty gave the vocal a shot. The rest, of course, is history. In general construction, it's basically a minor-key ballad. However, the descending chord progression (suggested by session guitarist P.F. Sloan) is vaguely reminiscent of "Walk Don't Run" and gives the song a minor surf/rock feel. The song was not only one of the most often-played records of its day, but it has proven itself to be one that can truly be described as timeless. Covered by a multitude of other artists as diverse as Bobby Womack to the Beach Boys (who had a substantial hit with it in the mid-'80s, with Roger McGuinn adding his trademark 12-string to their version), the song has also appeared in numerous films, such as the Oscar award-winning Forrest Gump. If the word "rainbow" can be used as a label to a song, it surely must be affixed here.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
West Side Story/Decades Collection 1960s 1961
Various Artists
Metro Goldwyn Mayer 2:39
If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears 1966 MCA 2:42
No Image 1967 MCA
No Image 1968 Dunhill Compact Classics
16 of Their Greatest Hits 1969 MCA 2:40
Monterey International Pop Festival 1971 One Way Records 2:44
No Image 1973
Cruisin' 1966 1976
Various Artists
Increase Records 3:11
No Image 1980 MFP
Hits of Gold 1981 MCA 2:40
No Image 1987 MCA
The Ultimate Collection 1988 Geffen / MCA / Universal 2:37
Flower Power [Sony] 1989
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:38
History of Rock: The 60s, Pt. 4 1990
Various Artists
Collectables 2:41
Air America [Soundtrack] 1990
Original Soundtrack
MCA 2:38
No Image 1990
Various Artists
Motown
No Image 1990 MCA
Sullivan Years: The Mod Sound 1990
Various Artists
TVT
Creeque Alley: The History of the Mamas and the Papas 1991 Geffen 2:39
No Image 1991 Rhino
Daydream 1992 BMG / Ariola
Good Morning, Vietnam, Vol. 1 1992
Various Artists
Disky 2:37
60's Sound Explosion 1993
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:37
Rock Dreams [Alex] 1994
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 2:40
California Dreamin' 1994 Universal Special Products 2:38
Rock Around the Oldies, Vol. 1 [Universal] 1994
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 2:37
Vintage Collectibles, Vol.  1: 1962-1969 1995
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 2:41
Mellow Sixties 1995
Various Artists
JCI Associated Labels 2:32
The Best of Folk Rock 1995
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:38
Folk Hits Around the Campfire 1995
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:38
Southern California with Fond Memories 1995
Various Artists
CitySongs 2:41
The 70's Come Alive Again 1995
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 2:38
No Image 1995
Various Artists
La Mejor Musica
Very Best of the Mamas & the Papas [Universal] 1996 Polygram / PolyGram
Only Rock 'N Roll 1965-1969: 20 Pop Hits 1996
Various Artists
Rhino / Essex 2:43
Beautiful Thing 1996
Original Soundtrack
MCA / UMC (Universal Catalogue) 2:40
The Monterey International Pop Festival, June 16-17-18, 1967 1997
Various Artists
Rhino 4:06
No Image 1997
Various Artists
Rhino/Warner Bros.
California Dreamin': Live in Concert 1998 Prism Entertainment 3:26
Greatest Hits 1998 MCA 2:43
Psychedelia [Crimson] 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions
Groovin' 60's [Warner] 1998
Various Artists
Rhino / Essex 2:40
Why Do Fools Fall in Love: Original Versions 1998
Original Soundtrack
Rhino 2:40
Vietnam: A Musical Retrospective 1998
Various Artists
Universal 3:02
No Image 1998
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 2:37
The Best of the Best [Insight] 1998
Various Artists
Insight (3)
Before They Were the Mamas & the Papas...The Magic Circle 1999 Varèse Vintage / Varese 2:06
Best of the Mamas & the Papas: 20th Century Masters 1999 MCA / Polydor 2:41
Jukebox Hits of 1966, Vol. 1 1999
Various Artists
Jukebox Records 2:39
40 Hits: 1965-1969 1999
Various Artists
Millennium Hits (Netherlands) 2:39
The 60's Ultimate Collection, Vol. 1  [Box Set] 1999
Various Artists
Collectables
Universal Masters Collection: Classic 1999 Polydor / Universal 2:41
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Image Entertainment
The Mamas & the Papas: Magic Collection 2000 2:26
Positively 60's 2000
Various Artists
Capitol 2:40
The Millennium's Greatest Hits, Vols. 1-2 2000
Various Artists
Collectables 2:40
Spirit of the 60's [Madacy 2000] 2000
Various Artists
Madacy 2:40
20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best of the '60s 2000
Various Artists
Hip-O / Universal Music 2:41
Spirit of the 60's: Folk Rock, Vol. 3 2000
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:40
The Rock Machine Turns You Back On 2000
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:27
No Image 2000
Various Artists
Collectables
Best of the Mamas & the Papas [Import] 2001 MCA 2:40
San Francisco 49ers: Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 2001
Various Artists
Alphabet City 2:36
The Singles+ 2001 BR Music 2:42
Hippy Chick: The Girls of the 60's 2001
Various Artists
Dressed To Kill 2:27
Vietnam: Songs from the Divided House 2001
Various Artists
Q Records 2:38
Woodstock Generation [Crimson] 2001
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 2:39
Mega 60's 2001
Various Artists
Wagram Records 2:26
No Image 2001 Polydor / Universal Music 2:38
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Buddha Records 2:41
All the Leaves Are Brown: The Golden Era Collection 2001 MCA 2:40
Singers and Songwriters: Late '60s 2001
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
Hollywood's Greatest 2002
Various Artists
Golden Stars
No Image 2002
Broadway Cast Recording
Columbia / Columbia/Legacy 2:39
California Dreamin': The Best of the Mamas & the Papas [Polydor] 2002 Polygram / Universal/Polygram
Casey Kasem Presents: America's Top Ten - The 60's Folk Years 2002
Various Artists
Top Sail Productions 2:41
Red, White & Rock 2002
Various Artists
Rhino 2:40
The Folk Years: Blowin' in the Wind 2002
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:40
The Very Best of 60's Gold 2003
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:40
Again II 2003
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:41
WSNI: FM's Sunny's Summer Hits 2003
Various Artists
Collectables 2:40
No Image 2003 Ryko Distribution
Early Days of the Future: Adventures in West Coast Rock 2003
Various Artists
Prism Entertainment 3:27
Let's Go to San Francisco 2004
Various Artists
Goldies 2:25
Good Morning Vietnam: A Soundtrack for a Generation 2004
Various Artists
Crimson Productions 2:39
No Image 2004
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 2:39
Super 60's [EMI] 2004
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 2:39
I Love Rock & Roll, Vol. 18 2004
Various Artists
Collectables 2:40
Doc Rock presents Campfire Classics 2004
Various Artists
BMG International 2:40
Classic Hits of the 60's 2004
Various Artists
San Fran 2:41
No Image 2004
Various Artists
Collectables
Sixties Rock 2004
Various Artists
Passport Audio
California Dreamin' [Collectables] 2004 Collectables 2:41
The Millennium's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Collectables 2:39
Rock & Roll's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Collectables 2:40
No Image 2004
Various Artists
Ouver
Spirit of Woodstock 2004
Various Artists
BMG International
On the Road 2004
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
Psychedelia, Vol. 2 2004
Various Artists
Pazzazz 2:28
Complete Anthology 2005 Universal/MCA 2:44
Gold 2005 DGC / Geffen / UMC (Universal Catalogue) 2:40
Guitar Songs 2005
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Dreamin' Live 2005 Legacy 2:27
The '60s Rock Experience 2005
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 2:38
California Dreamin': The Songs of the Mamas & the Papas 2005 Hip-O
Summer Fun, Vol. 1 2005
Various Artists
Collectables 2:40
Flower Power [Disky] 2005
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution
Ultimate 16: Spirit of the '60s 2005
Various Artists
Madacy 2:40
Sounds of the '60s [Pazzazz] 2006
Various Artists
Pazzazz 2:28
No Image 2006
Various Artists
Demon 2:41
60's Gold 2006
Various Artists
Hip-O / Universal 2:41
California Dreamin': The Best of the Mamas & the Papas [Universal TV] 2006 Universal Music TV 2:39
20th Century Masters: Best of 60s Rock N Roll 2006
Various Artists
UMVD 2:43
California Dreamin' [DFP] 2006 Lt Series 2:26
True Mellow 2006
Various Artists
Spectrum Music / Universal 2:38
No Image 2006
Various Artists
Colour Collection 2007 Universal 2:41
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Razor & Tie 2:49
Plugged into Summer [Circuit City Exclusive] 2007
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:40
Viva Mallorca 2007
Various Artists
BMG / Sbm Records 2:40
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:40
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Sbm Records / Sony BMG 2:39
Flower Power [Time Life Box] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:41
Only the Best of the History of Rock the 60s 2007
Various Artists
Collectables 2:41
The Graduate: 1960s Decades Collection [CD/DVD] 2007
Various Artists
MGM 2:39
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Platinum C / WG Productions
Best of the Mamas & the Papas: Green Series 2008 Universal International
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Ultimate 2:40
The Psychedelic Sound of the '60s Movement 2008
Various Artists
Rolling Stone 2:41
No Image 2008
Various Artists
100 Hits 2:40
Flower Power: California Dreamin' 2008
Variuos Artists
Time/Life Music 2:40
Ultimate 60s Collection, Vol. 2 [Collectables] 2008
Various Artists
Collectables
Sounds of the 60's Generation 2008
Various Artists
Destra 2:41
No Image 2009 Universal Music 2:41
The Best Sixties Album in the World...Ever! [2009] 2009
Various Artists
EMI 2:38
No Image 2009
Various Artists
Ultimate 2:40
Singers & Songwriters: Troubadours 2010
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:40
Singers & Songwriters [Time-Life Box Set] 2011
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:40
Icon 2011 Geffen / MCA 2:40
The Ultimate Collection: 60s - 100 Hits 2011
Various Artists
Ultimate / Ultimate Collection 2:42
Sixties Hits 2012
Various Artists
Greatest Ever / Union Square Music 2:42
The Legends of Folk: The Village Scene 2012
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
100 Essential 60's
Various Artists
Universal 2:41
100 Hits
Various Artists
Universal 2:40
60's Hits Collection: Everlasting Love
Various Artists
Musketeer Records
Best 1200 Movies
Various Artists
Universal Distribution
Campfire Classics
Various Artists
Phantom Import Distribution
No Image
Various Artists
MCA
No Image
Various Artists
Phantom Records (England)
Good Morning, Vietnam
Various Artists
Disky
Greatest Hits [Universal] Universal Distribution
Listen to the Music
Various Artists
Rhino 2:41
Long Hot Summer
Various Artists
Gold Classic Hits Radio 2:41
Lost and Found: 1962-1969
Various Artists
EMI
No Image
Various Artists
MCA
Pure 60's
Various Artists
Universal Music 2:37
Salut Les Copains, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Universal 2:38
No Image
Various Artists
Warner Bros.
No Image
Various Artists
Universal Music 2:38
No Image
Various Artists
2:41
Summer of Love [Dino]
Various Artists
Dino Entertainment
The  Very Best of the Mamas & the Papas [Universal France] Universal Distribution
The California Sound of the 60's
Various Artists
Scana 2:36
No Image
Various Artists
No Image
Various Artists
Target Records
No Image
Various Artists
WSM
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