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Classical Notes: January 20, 2007 Archive

The leaves are brown and the sky is gray

Posted at 4:17 PM on January 20, 2007 by Alison Young

All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray. I've been for a walk on a winter’s day. I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A. California dreamin' on such a winter’s day.

Sound familiar? Maybe those words have a special touch of poignancy on a cold January day like today in Minnesota.

When the Mamas and the Papas released Califonia Dreamin' in late 1965, the song kind of stalled out, until one bleak mid-winter February day the sentiment of those words had a particularly strong effect on people, especially up north, and the song hit the charts.

The tight harmony, the seemingly easy-going relationship of the four singers, and the folksy songs that only hint at a dark side made this group one of the most popular and influential bands during the sixties. And it was the main singer, Denny Doherty's clear tenor, sometimes punctuated with an achingly yearning growl, that gave me goose-bumps.

Stopped in to a church I passed along the way. Well I got down on my knees and I pretend to pray. You know the preacher liked the cold, he knows I'm gonna stay. California dreamin' on such a winter's day.

Mr. Doherty died this past week. He was just 66.

I may be a classical music host, but I often turn to music of all types for inspiration. Denny Doherty has left our world for hopefully a warmer and sunnier one, and his voice singing about an unfulfilled wish will be one on my lips this winter.