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SCOTT MCKENZIE: San Francisco


BBC: Scott McKenzie, who sang the 1960s hit San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair), has died aged 73. The singer was a close friend of Mamas and Papas star John Phillips, who wrote and produced the San Francisco track. Released in May 1967, it became a global hit and an anthem for the 1960s counterculture movement. As a teenager, he met Phillips and formed a doowop band called The Abstracts. The band moved to New York and became The Smoothies, where they played on the club circuit and recorded two singles. With the rise of folk music in the 1960s, he and Phillips approached banjo player Dick Weissman and went on to form The Journeymen. The trio recorded three albums, before breaking up in 1964. Phillips went on to form the original The Mamas and Papas and is credited with writing a memorable body of songs that chronicled the personal and social upheavals of the decade.McKenzie declined an invitation to join him in favour of becoming a solo star, but the two remained close friends. San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair), penned by Phillips and featuring him on guitar, was McKenzie’s only significant hit. Inspired by the first Monterey Pop Festival, which organised by Phillips and Lou Adler, among others, it was reportedly recorded with McKenzie wearing a flower garland and friends gathered on the floor to meditate. MORE

RELATED:
SHAKE the stems and seeds out of the Persian rug and put some flowers in your hair: the Summer of Love is 45 years old. The patchouli-scented commemoration has fixated on San Francisco, the Summer of Love’s blissful nexus. What wretched Midwestern longhair-in-waiting in the summer of ’67 could resist the siren of Scott McKenzie’s Top 5 hit, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”? Untold VW microbuses from Ann Arbor to Amherst chugged west on little more than the song’s purple-hazy promise: the tribes were gathering, and they were gathering in San Francisco. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: The Mamas and the Papas were a band of lovers, spouses and friends, which proved to be both their greatest asset and their undoing. In 1966, with their first single, ”California Dreamin’,” the group epitomized sunny optimism and galvanized westward-bound youths at the dawn of the hippie era with strong harmonies and expectant lyrics, all slightly ringed with darkness. Mr. Phillips was a man of many contradictions: idealist, hedonist, businessman, musician. Two years before Woodstock, he was a producer of the Monterey Pop Festival, which propelled Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and a new era of rock and youth culture into the American mainstream. As a songwriter, he wrote music for the Grateful Dead, the Beach Boys and Scott McKenzie. Mr. Phillips was born in Parris Island, S.C., and as a teenager was a fan of harmonizing mixed-sex vocal groups like the Modernaires with Paula Kelly. In the late 50’s he moved to New York, forming a folk trio, the Journeymen, that played Greenwich Village coffeehouses (alongside Bob Dylan, members of the Byrds and John Sebastian) and recorded for Capitol Records. At one such coffeehouse, he met a model, Michelle Gilliam. The two fell in love, and Mr. Phillips divorced his wife and married the younger model. Soon, the couple met another folk singer, Dennis Doherty, and his friend Cass Elliot. As Mr. Phillips liked to tell it, the four took LSD together for the first time soon after they met, and it formed a bond between them. They moved to Los Angeles to seek success. MORE

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