Songs About LA: The Ultimate Playlist

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Editor’s Note: Over the long holiday weekend, DJ Anne Litt reflected on her favorite LA songs

Stream a Spotify playlist below as well as thoughts from Anne!

I love holiday weekends in Los Angeles. It’s the closest we ever get to tumbleweeds blowing down any LA thoroughfare. Over the July 4 weekend, I found myself taking different ways to and from KCRW – staying off the freeway and driving through my deserted city thinking about music.

It may sound strange, but I sometimes think about music without listening to it.

I’ve been compiling this list of songs about Los Angeles for some time. It’s a daunting task and, honestly, I’ve only just begun it. This place has inspired so much music, in so many different genres, through so many years that I could never come up with a definitive list, but this is a start.

Susan Raye – “L.A. International Airport” 

I don’t know of any other airport that has been immortalized so descriptively in a song about a break up. “L.A. International Airport, where thee big jet engines roar. L.A. International Airport, I won’t see him anymore.”

Randy Newman – “I Love LA”

This song has become the de facto anthem for Los Angeles. Like it or not when you’re at a Dodger game or Laker game and you hear it start, you know it’s been a good day!

Ray Davies – “Celluloid Heroes”

The melancholy in this version of the song (from “The Kinks Choral Collection” By Ray Davies and The Crouch End Festival Chorus) is truly overwhelming. Perhaps it’s the choir or Ray Davies perspective on the song now. Either way, the cautionary tale is powerful and, at the end, uplifting.

George Stanford – “Meet Me In Los Angeles”

I love this song about the essence of what drew all of us transplants here in the first place. Makes me love my adopted hometown even more every time I hear it.

Ice Cube – “Today Was A Good Day”

From 1993, this song came out soon after I moved to LA and was on his album “The Predator” which came out right after the 1992 LA Riots. There’s something about it’s easy nonchalance, West Coast groove and Isley Brothers sample juxtaposed with the true meaning of the lyrics.

Elliot Smith – “Alameda”

This song about the desolation and dark loneliness of this vast city.

Thee Midnighters – “Whittier Blvd”

Coming out of East LA in the 60’s, Thee Midniters created a surf rock sound with horns unique to the urban culture of Los Angeles.

X – “Los Angeles”

This is one of the songs that made it apparent I had to come here (even they are talking about leaving!). I’ve never listened to it quietly. Ever.

Ryan Adams – “Goodnight Hollywood Boulevard”

Ryan is an artist who has been inspired by Los Angeles and now calls it home. I just love this one.

Art Brut – “Moving To L.A.”

Any song by an English band that can barely play their instruments that talks about wanting to “hang around with Axl Rose” and “drinking a Hennessey with Morrissey” is an instant classic.

Jonnie Davis, Francis Langford, and The Benny Goodman Orchestra – “Hooray For Hollywood”

This is the quintessential Hollywood song, from the 1937 movie Hollywood Hotel, lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The true classic of them all.

SIDE BAR: (These songs aren’t available on Spotify but Anne loves them too!)

The Beatles – “Blue Jay Way”

When I first moved to LA, I actually went looking for Blue Jay Way. I found it up in the mythical hills above LA and pictured George Harrison writing it, inspired by those foggy summer LA mornings.

Johnny Mathis – “Christmas In Los Angeles”

Christmas can be a strange time in Los Angeles for me. Johnny Mathis makes it the most perfect place and only place to spend Christmas in the entire world. The best Christmas song EVER!

Here’s a list of a few more!

Joni Mitchell – “California” “Ladies Of The Canyon”
The Decemberists – “Los Angeles, I’m Yours”
The Byrds – “Bad Night At The Whiskey”
Dawes – “Time Spent In Los Angeles”
Grateful Dead – “West LA Fadeaway”
Take – “Los Angeles Is Outside”
Gilberto Gil – Samba De Los Angeles”
The Standells – “Riot On The Sunset Strip”
Rival Sons – “Burn Down Los Angeles”
Gene Clark – “Los Angeles”
Father John Misty (and a great cover by Tashaki Miyaki) – “Hollywood Forever Cemetary Sings”
Band of Skulls – “Hollywood Bowl”
Ryan Adams – “La Cienega Smiled”

Patti Smith – “Redondo Beach”
Ry Cooder – “3rd Base, Dodger Stadium”