Singer-songwriter Scott McKenzie, best known for singing the Summer of Love anthem “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” died Aug. 17 in Los Angeles after two weeks in the hospital. He was 73.
Born Philip Blongheim in Jacksonville, Fla., McKenzie met songwriter John Phillips as a teenager in the mid-’50s and formed vocal group the Abstracts, which would later become the Smoothies and finally morph into folk group the Journeymen, the last of which cut several albums for Capitol Records before dissolving in the mid-1960s.
While Phillips went on to create the Mamas and the Papas, McKenzie went solo, launching his career on the Phillips-penned “San Francisco.” Released by Lou Adler’s Ode Records in the summer of 1967, the song captured the zeitgeist of the burgeoning hippie movement and reached No. 4 on the U.S. singles chart, topping the chart in the U.K. and eventually selling more than 7 million copies.
Full-length release “The Voice of Scott McKenzie” followed that year, featuring minor hit “Like an Old Time Movie.” The country-flavored sophomore LP “Stained Glass Morning” (1970), which featured all McKenzie compositions and session work from Ry Cooder, did not yield any hits, and McKenzie essentially retired from music for more than a decade, living in Joshua Tree, Calif., and Virginia Beach, Va.
In the mid-’80s, McKenzie returned to performing as a member of the revamped Mamas and the Papas — with whom he toured until 2001 — as well as a solo performer. He also notched an unexpected No. 1 hit as a songwriter, co-composing the latter-day Beach Boys single “Kokomo” in 1988.