Paul Staley: 'San Francisco'

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Paul Staley and his family are fighting the shut-in blues and feeling hope for the future by singing a love song to their hometown of San Francisco.

Little kids can get obsessed with a song. Every parent knows this. When I was little I fell in love with the Christmas carol “Hark the Herald, Angels Sing.” It could be the middle of summer and I’d ask my mom to sing what I called “Angel Song” as my bedtime lullaby.

So I wasn’t all that surprised when, a couple weeks before Everything Changed, our four-year-old grandson started singing the opening bars to “San Francisco.” Not the flowers in your hair one, but the older one about opening up your Golden Gate, the grand finale to Beach Blanket Babylon. He was learning it at daycare, and although he could carry the tune, he couldn’t get very far with the lyrics.

My wife and I didn’t know the words any better so, of course, we went online where we found not only the lyrics but videos of the Jeannette McDonald and Judy Garland versions. Singing “San Francisco” became part of our routine with our grandson and his younger sister.

But with the imposition of shelter in place we have had to keep our distance from them even though they live just downstairs. It’s awkward and difficult, but necessary. And so we were overjoyed when our son sent us a video the other evening.


In it our grandkids were belting out their version of “San Francisco.” Obviously, we thought it was incredibly cute, after all, they’re our grandkids. But to be honest they were mangling it pretty badly. They sounded like drunken sailors visiting during Fleet Week.

But then I also felt something else. Here were these two little second generation San Franciscans singing a love song to their hometown. I felt a surge of pride for this place and the people who live here: our local leaders who took decisive and early action, our health care workers and medical researchers, all of us who are practicing social distancing with such diligence.

I could conclude by singing a couple bars, but singing doesn’t appear to be a family strong suit. So let’s just agree that some day soon we will all sing it together.

With a Perspective, I’m Paul Staley.