Scott McKenzie, singer of flower power pop, dies aged 73

 
Hippies at a 1960s "gathering" in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park (file pic) McKenzie's hit San Francisco became an anthem of the 1960s counterculture movement

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Scott McKenzie, who sang the 1960s hit San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair), has died aged 73.

The singer was a close friend of Mamas and Papas star John Phillips, who wrote and produced the San Francisco track.

Released in May 1967, it became a global hit and an anthem for the 1960s counterculture movement.

"I am amazed at how San Francisco continues even now to evoke dreams in the hearts and minds of people all over the world," McKenzie wrote in 2002.

He was found by a neighbour in his home on Sunday afternoon. His death was confirmed by another neighbour, Victoria Byers.

She told the BBC he had been in and out of hospital recently after falling ill with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease affecting the nervous system.

"I think he had a heart attack this most recent time. He was in the hospital," she said. "They did not want him to leave the hospital, but he wanted to be in his house [when he died]".

Born Philip Wallach Blondheim in January 1939, the singer, songwriter and guitarist grew up in North Carolina where he lived with his grandparents while his widowed mother worked in Washington DC.

As a teenager, he met Phillips and formed a doowop band called The Abstracts. The band moved to New York and became The Smoothies, where they played on the club circuit and recorded two singles.

It was at this stage in his career that he changed his name, after complaints that Blondheim was unpronounceable, and comments by comedian Jackie Curtis that he looked like a Scottie dog - hence Scott.

Festival inspiration

With the rise of folk music in the 1960s, he and Phillips approached banjo player Dick Weissman and went on to form The Journeymen. The trio recorded three albums, before breaking up in 1964.

Phillips went on to form the original The Mamas and Papas and is credited with writing a memorable body of songs that chronicled the personal and social upheavals of the decade.

McKenzie declined an invitation to join him in favour of becoming a solo star, but the two remained close friends.

San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair), penned by Phillips and featuring him on guitar, was McKenzie's only significant hit.

Inspired by the first Monterey Pop Festival, which organised by Phillips and Lou Adler, among others, it was reportedly recorded with McKenzie wearing a flower garland and friends gathered on the floor to meditate.

It soared to the number four spot in the US Billboard 100, and number one in the UK.

McKenzie released two solo albums, before dropping out in the late 1960s and moving to Virginia Beach, after struggling with the pressures of fame.

'Summer of love'

Over the course of his career, he dedicated every American performance of the track to Vietnam veterans, and in 2002 sang at the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

He returned to music in the late 80s when he replaced first Denny Doherty, and then an ailing Phillips, in a touring version of The Mamas and the Papas.

He also co-wrote the Beach Boys hit Kokomo.

"Never before or since, with the exception of rap, has popular music contained such sheer poetic and social power," wrote McKenzie on his website in 2002.

"Even at the end of the decade, when so many of us had lost hope, when the summer of love had turned into a winter of despair, our music helped keep us alive and carry us forward into a world we had hoped to change.

"And so it still does."

 

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  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 111.

    Sad to learn that Scott McKenzie has died. I've still never physically been to San Francisco but as a kid, I went there many times in my mind listening to his wonderful anthem. That track was a huge part of the late sixties backdrop - a time when idealism was the reality for so many. RIP Scott - and thanks for your contribution - if only it had taught powermeerkat a thing or two.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 110.

    109: I agree with every historical point mentioned but doesn't every decade have incidents, horrors, injustices and is not solely the bastion of the 60's. At least this song was part of a movement against war in a right wing America but I prefer to opt for what good came out of the 60's over the bad but agreed we must never forget also the dark times and hypocrisy of super powers & aggressors.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 109.

    Re 60s achievements:

    Bay of Pigs Invasion, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War, construction of Berlin Wall, JFK's and RK's assassinations, Six-Day War, disastrous Cultural Revolution in China. Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia ending Prague Spring, Qaddafi's putsch, to mention just a few disasters.


    True: at the end of that decade (1969) "The Eagle (Apollo-11) has landed".

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 108.

    he had what I would call a pure voice. I never get tired of listening to San Francisco.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 107.

    Sad....R.I.P.. a classic song that always makes me smile!!!!

  • Comment number 106.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 105.

    92.
    John Jackson
    Stupid song. A completely wasted decade.
    ____
    What uneducated tosh! Google 'Achievements 1960s' to see how 'wasted' the decade was... Martin Luther King and Civil Rights Movement, Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, Women's Liberation, huge advances in science and medicine, wonderful music, England won the World Cup...

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 104.

    Btw. Tony Scott (a film director) has died too. And?

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 103.

    Very sad news to hear of Scott Mckenzie's untimely death. His song was iconic of the sixties and whenever I hear it on the radio makes me feel good inside, nostalgic for the 60's and transports me to a better time & place even though I was a child of the early 70's.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 102.

    That record was promoted opportunistically by the music industry and the hippy movement was a media-made fad.

    Unfortunately there are many ageing former hippies in positions of power now and they consider any criticism of the 1960s as almost sacrilegious in their need to preserve their delusional memories.

  • Comment number 101.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 100.

    Any pictures of this gentleman besides the photo of a bunch of folks sitting around a tree?
    There are plenty of Thomas Scott photos. Thank You.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 99.

    @43.prgreen
    sums up the feelings of many of my generation who thought it was possible (obviously mistakenly) to live in a world where love and peace overcame greed and war. Still hoping, still believing.

    Quite right, now that we live on Airstrip One under the constant surveillance of CCTV, ravaged by duck-house-minded MPs, casino-banks etc. we need to start to go in this direction more than ever.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 98.

    Dream , Remember, Dream Again, and this time live the dream beyond the grasping claws of materialism

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 97.

    92.John Jackson
    Stupid song. A completely wasted decade.
    +++

    After Paul McCartney (just as Madonna and many other artists) expressed support for Russian female band members (now in jail) who dared criticize KGB gen. Putin, some wit in this portal has remarked:

    'I guess he won't be "Back in the USSR" '

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 96.

    the bloke & the like

    this misconception of a right to free speech you have is so tiresome. If you wanna rant go stand on a box in the street & say what you feel, that is your right. Every website has its own rules, the bbc has theirs. either follow them or go spill your poison elsewhere

    stop hijacking every hys for your own political views. here its sick & vile

    RIP Scott what a fab song ;-)

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 95.

    @31. Wideboy
    "I was born in the early 70's so I don't know who he is but he must have meant a lot to some people"

    Really? I was born in the 80s but still know this song. It's a lovely song and a bit of hippy optimism could go along way these days, although the physcodellic prints can happily stay in the past!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 94.

    I was 12yrs old and bought the record.
    Very evocotive song and I remember the summer of '67 from a schoolboy perspective.
    The summer of 67 was glorious and the aspiration of the hippy movement has been with me ever since.
    What would you rather do?
    Make love..or make war?
    If the latter..mankind is lost.
    R.I.P. Scott MacKenzie,you converted me..thankfully.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 93.

    63.Plant_Smith
    @51 powermeercat " . . Most of young people...being stoned most of the time and thus worshipping Ho-Chin-Minh and Vietcong. [Where are they now? Most drug addicts dead now just as Ho-Chi-Minh; and comunist Vietnam turning out a miserable failure. Just as Cuba, N. Korea and USSR]"

    So we live in a better world now do we?



    Yes. Unless you prefer to move to Vietnam or Cuba.

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 92.

    Stupid song. A completely wasted decade.

 

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