“San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” is an American pop music song, written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas, and sung by Scott McKenzie. The song was produced and released in May 1967 by Phillips and Lou Adler, who used it to promote their Monterey International Pop Music Festival held in June of that year.
John Phillips played guitar on the recording and session musician Gary L. Coleman played orchestra bells and chimes. The bass line of the song was supplied by session musician Joe Osborn. Hal Blaine played drums. The song became one of the best-selling singles of the 1960s in the world, reaching the fourth position on the US charts and the number one spot on the UK charts.
McKenzie’s version of the song has been called “the unofficial anthem of the counterculture movement of the 1960s, including the Hippie, Anti-Vietnam War and Flower power movements.”
“…local authorities in Monterey were starting to get cold feet over the prospect of their town being overrun by hippies. To smooth things over, Phillips wrote a song, “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair).”[this quote needs a citation]
Phillips reported writing the song in about 20 minutes.
The song, which tells the listeners, “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair”, is credited with bringing thousands of young people to San Francisco, California, during the late 1960s.
Released on May 13, 1967, the song was an instant hit. By the week ending July 1, 1967, it reached the number four spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, where it remained for four consecutive weeks. Meanwhile, the song rose to number one in the UK Singles Chart, and most of Europe. The single is purported to have sold over seven million copies worldwide. In Central Europe, young people adopted “San Francisco” as an anthem for freedom, and it was widely played during Czechoslovakia’s 1968 Prague Spring uprising.
The song has been featured in several films, including Frantic, The Rock, and Forrest Gump. It was also played occasionally by Led Zeppelin as part of the improvised section in the middle of “Dazed and Confused”. U2’s Bono also led the audience in singing this song during their PopMart performances in the San Francisco Bay Area on June 18 and 19, 1997. New Order covered the song on July 11, 2014, at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.
The Bee Gees song “Massachusetts” is a reaction to this song. The Bee Gees’ song is about someone who has been to San Francisco but is now homesick for Massachusetts.
Scott McKenzie – double-tracked vocals, acoustic guitar
John Phillips – acoustic guitar, lead guitar, sitar, production
Joe Osborn – bass guitar
Gary L Coleman – orchestral bells and chimes
Hal Blaine – drums, percussion