I'd always thought of "California Dreamin'" as kind of a happy song. I'm not sure why. It's not. The leaves are BROWN. The sky is GRAY. He gets down on his knees and begins to pray. He's not living in California. He's dreaming about it.
But I think I know why it seems happy now. Bud Shank. He was this influential jazz flutist and saxophonist who sat in on the recording of "California Dreamin'" and provided the little flute solo. It comes exactly halfway through the song. Starts out kind of melancholy and then builds and touches on the West Coast jazz vibe that Shank helped pioneer. But it never quite gets to the free and easy Hermosa Beach feeling, just hints at it, alludes to it, and then returns to earth.
Bud Shank died last week. He was 82.