Songs About LA: The Ultimate Playlist


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”


  1. bollywoodnazar
    November 3, 2016, 3:44 am

    Nice Blog... Thanks for sharing this nice blog. I read it completely and get some interesting knowledge from this. I again thanks for sharing such a nice blog.

  2. bert
    July 15, 2014, 10:11 am

  • Laura

    LA Song by Beth Hart

  • “Ode To LA” by The Raveonettes is a fantastic song with vocal support by Ronnie Spector.

  • PaavoNurmi

    Gotta have the old classic “L.A. Freeway,” written by Guy Clark & performed by him & also covered by Jerry Jeff Walker.

  • LaVonne Miller

    Warren Zevon, Carmalita. Sad that this song is missing.

    • Matt Cooper

      I came here for the express purpose of adding my favorite Zevon tune to the list, but you beat me to it!

      • LaVonne Miller

        I’m glad to hear you thought it should be on the list, too, Matt!
        It’s my favorite Zevon tune as well.

    • bert

      Desperadoes Under The Eaves is an even MORE quintessential Zevon song abt L.A., don’cha think?

      • Matt Cooper

        Also a great one, but I’d give Carmelita the edge, because of the hook, and because… Pioneer Chicken!

  • coinside

    Thee Midnighters, “Whittier Blvd”, Translator “L.A., L.A.”, Los Lobos, “Farmer John”

  • Bojan Splavski

    Phosphorescent — Los Angeles

  • Pedro Salomão Piccinini

    free fallin – tom petty, how can you miss that? also, sheryl crow – all i wanna do…

    • Matt Cooper

      This being KCRW, maybe in another decade or two, when some or other hipster band of the future does a cover of either of those songs, will the original artists be considered “cool” enough to make a list like this one.

  • Gunnar Hissam

    Gotta go with People Under The Stairs – The L.A. Song

  • Matt Cooper

    One could make the case for Dionee Warwick’s “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” and Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia” — both of which are about getting the hell out here!

  • Matt Cooper

    Another obvious omission: Michelle Shocked’s “Come a Long Way” (I know she’s on the outs with most folks, but still a good song).

  • bert

    a band KCRW hipped me to:

    +, of COURSE, Burn Hollywood Burn by Public Enemy

  • bert
  • Nice Blog… Thanks for sharing this nice blog. I read it completely and get some interesting knowledge from this. I again thanks for sharing such a nice blog.