Arts and CultureNews

SFCentric History: 9 Lesser-Known Vintage Songs About San Francisco

The Bay's best newsletter for underground events & news

San Francisco is an old, iron safe filled with gold, glory, disaster, and secrets. SFCentric History is a column, by SF writer V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi, that digs in the vaults of local history and shares the sensational people, places, and things that rocked San Francisco.

Sure, we all know “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” or “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” but what about the more random songs dedicated to the best city in the world? There have been many, but for this week’s SFCentric History we’ll focus on 9 vintage songs starting with a nautical ballad about arriving in ‘Frisco’ during its gold rush, and sailing all the way to the Village People “San Francisco (You Got Me) written in the 1970s.

“Shanghai Brown,” (SF Gold Rush)


When first I went to Frisco boys, I went upon a spree,
My hard earned cash I spent it fast, I got drunk as drunk could be,
Before me money was all gone, or spent on some old whore,
I made up me mind and was well inclined to go to sea no more.

“San Francisco (At That San-Fran-Pan-American Fair),” Arthur Fields (1915)



The world is waiting for the date, They’re going to the Golden Gate
They’ll want to see your smiling face, You’ll make a dandy meeting place
Frisco, what will you do?
San Francisco, open up your gate, hurry, hurry
San Francisco, please don’t make us wait, hurry, hurry
Go on and start your fair, the whole world will be there

“Frisco Town,” Memphis Minnie (1929)


That old ‘Frisco train makes a mile a minute
That old ‘Frisco train makes a mile a minute
Well, in that old coach, I’m gonna sit right in it
I’m on my way, to ‘Frisco town

“There’s A Silver Moon on the Golden Gate,” Irving Berlin/Girls Of The Golden West (1938)

There’s a silver moon on the Golden GateZ
And it’s shining on that blue Pacific shore…
My heart is light as I sail tonight
On a crest of the Western sea

“Frisco Blues,” John Lee Hooker (1963)

I left my heart in San Francisco
I left my heart, people, in San Francisco
High on the hill, at the Golden Gate, ‘cross the bay
In San Francisco, on the hill, the mornin’ fog
And the cool, cool night
That’s where I wanna be: San Francisco
That’s where my heart
Up in New York City
I’ve been to Chicago
But found no place like San Francisco
With the cable car high, high on the hill

“I’m Always Drunk in San Francisco,” Carmen McRae (1967)

But tell me why does San Francisco
Like a lover’s kiss go straight to my brain
Guess it’s just the mood I’m in
That acts like alcohol

“San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native),” Fever Tree (1968)

Oh, San Francisco girls with
San Francisco ways
Don’t try to stop me girl, you can’t have your way
Don’t try to stop me girl, nothin’ you can say
Live like you wanna live and stay where you wanna stay
I just gotta go and get back to the Bay

“San Francisco (You Got Me),” The Village People (1977)

(Folsom), Folsom Street, on the way to (Polk and Castro)
(You don’t find them finer)
(Freedom), freedom is in the air, yeah…

Dress the way you please and put your mind at ease
It’s a city known for its freedom, (freedom)…

(San Francisco), San Francisco
(San Francisco), City by the Bay yeah
(San Francisco), he he he he hey
(You’ve got me)


“San Francisco Bay,” Lee Oskar (1978)

A million people in San Francisco
A million people I don’t really know
Nine hundred thousand doing 9 to 5
A hundred thousand staying up all night
Hey la la la la da da hey hey
San Francisco bay
La la la la da da hey hey
It’s San Francisco’s way


Previous post

A Transplant’s Take on Oakland Cuisine

Next post

The Women's Marches Happening Around the Bay

V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi

V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi

V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi is one of those rare born-and-raised San Franciscans (unicorn status). She is the Style & Culture, SF Editor for Hip Latina, and writer for several publications on fashion, art, culture and all things San Francisco. Alex aims to educate everyone (including natives) on anything you could possibly want to learn about the best city in the world. Follow her at @SFCentric and @TheItFactorBrand.