News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by

The story behind the Golden State's official song, 'I Love You California'

Cover of the sheet music for 'I Love You California,
Cover of the sheet music for 'I Love You California," the state's official song.

Listen to story

Download this story 10MB

This summer we've been telling you about a project called Songs in the Key of L.A., the multi-platform collaboration between the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, the L.A. Public Library and USC professor Josh Kun. 

Kun and his students culled through thousands of pieces of sheet music to find songs about the Golden State. Recently Josh joined Take Two in the studio to talk about one of the songs that they focused on: "I Love You California." Some might recognize the song as the soundtrack for the new Jeep Cherokee ads.

The song, one of California's original anthems, turned 100 years old this year and like so many in Hollywood, it had a winding road to prominence.

Interview Highlights:

On the creation of "I Love You California":
"The official state song was written by a Canadian immigrant, Francis Silverwood, who's best known for owning and opening Silverwood's Clothing Store, which was a flagship clothing emporium originally located on 5th and Broadway in downtown L.A. He wrote the lyrics, and Abraham Frankenstein was the director of the Orpheum Theater Orchestra, and they composed it in 1913."

On how it became famous in California:
"The song was featured in various expositions held in San Diego and San Francisco, and it went 'viral' before things could go viral. Mary Garden, a very prominent opera singer at the time, started to sing the song, made it popular, and there is a version where she appears on the cover of the sheet music and endorses it on the back. It's a note that is  reproduced that she wrote in her own handwriting, on stationary from the Alexandria Hotel."

A song...and a sales pitch:
"Much of the early sheet music from Los Angeles and Southern California was in a way less about selling music, and more about selling the city, selling the region, selling the state. Maybe if you sing this song enough, you too, no matter where you are in the country, you too will love these heavenly valleys, you too will love it so much that you have to actually get on the train, head west, and see it for yourself."