Does the Songwriter of ‘I Love L.A.’ Actually Love L.A.?

The city’s anthem is unmistakably tongue-in-cheek.


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Guests swimming and lounging by the Tropicana Pool at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel in Los Angeles.Credit…Kendrick Brinson for The New York Times

Los Angeles hasn’t typically been a place that inspires bold declarations of love.

So many commonly held beliefs about Los Angeles are actually slights: too car-centric, pricey, vapid, unsafe, polluted. Even our city’s anthem, Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.,” is unmistakably tongue-in-cheek.

But for many Angelenos, myself included, the open secret about living here is that it’s pretty incredible. The vastness and heterogeneity of Los Angeles often make it feel like a land of endless wonders, difficult to translate for people who come for only a few days.

“Visiting Los Angeles and living in Los Angeles are very different experiences. I don’t really recommend the former but I find the latter enriching,” Rosecrans Baldwin, a writer in Los Angeles, told me. “There’s a lot of room in Los Angeles, especially for people who might not fit somewhere else, and I think that gives the city a tremendous amount of life.”

Baldwin interviewed dozens of Angelenos for his recent book, “Everything Now: Lessons from the City-State of Los Angeles.” And true to form, many seemed hesitant to proclaim their love for the city.

Baldwin chalked it up to tired comparisons of Los Angeles and New York that have long framed our city as an underdog. Even the popular “S.N.L.” sketch “The Californians” portrays us as little more than drawling, driving idiots.


The Beatles in 1964.Credit…Express/Archive Photos/Getty Images

When I moved to Los Angeles in 2013, I too wasn’t expecting much. I had been living in the Bay Area, where a feeling of intellectual and cultural superiority to Los Angeles ran rampant.

But within a year or so, the city had won me over. I could hike to Griffith Observatory any day of the year, find every food I dreamed of (and more) and see my family as often as I chose. Nowadays, nothing compares to watching from a window seat of a plane as we descend into this twinkling metropolis and knowing I’m almost home.

Baldwin moved to Los Angeles six years ago and quickly fell for the region’s unruliness, he said. While other cities can feel as if you’re walking around a tidy outdoor shopping mall, Los Angeles surprises him daily.

He also has a connection to the city: his first name, shared by the famous street mentioned in 2Pac’s “California Love.” Both Baldwin and the street are named after William Rosecrans, a congressman from the late 1800s who’s an ancestor of Baldwin’s.

Baldwin told me he was hopeful that unabashedly loving Los Angeles was becoming less taboo. Most people he interviewed revealed they were happy here.

“Even people who were in the most struggling of circumstances that I talked to, they had their Los Angeles,” Baldwin said. “There was some sense of like, the ground has shifted a little bit, that perhaps it’s not as cliche as it might’ve been to be up front, ‘Yeah, I love L.A.,’ and cue the Randy Newman song.”


The original “Hollywood” sign in 1924.Credit…Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Cue it indeed: I’ve long wondered whether the songwriter behind the wry “I Love L.A.,” the unofficial theme song of the 1984 Summer Olympics, actually loves Los Angeles.

You may remember that the song’s narrator drives in a convertible, takes in the city’s sights — “Look at that bum over there” — and listens to the Beach Boys, all beside “a big nasty redhead” in the passenger seat.

When I called Newman on a recent morning (he was in his home in the Pacific Palisades), he told me that while his song might not be “a Chamber of Commerce tune,” that didn’t mean the Angeleno in his lyrics enjoyed his life any less.

“There’s sort of an aggressive ignorance to it that I like. You know, he likes the redhead. I do too — and the Beach Boys and riding in an open car,” he said. “Maybe people in L.A. have to apologize for those kinds of basic joys in life, but I don’t know why.”

Plus, Newman noted, no matter the original intention, when “I Love L.A.” is played now, like at Dodger Stadium after the home team wins, “people are unabashedly happy.”

So, I asked Newman, “Do you love L.A.?” He took a long pause.

“I think I’ve come to,” he said. “Maybe the song had something to do with it. It’s home.”

For more:

Check out our California songs playlist.

Newman spoke to The Los Angeles Times on the 25th anniversary of “I Love L.A.”

“I’ve tried at times to get rid of it, but I always take it back,” Newman told the paper. “There are other songs I have done that I think are more meaningful to me, but, hey, I’ll take it.”

A musician recently created a shot-for-shot remake of the “I Love L.A.” music video. “It was like an L.A. scavenger hunt.”


If you read one story, make it this

How Elizabeth Holmes soured the media on Silicon Valley.


Lakers fans at Staples Center in 2016.Credit…Patrick T. Fallon for The New York Times

The rest of the news

Renaming Staples Center: What is, the company paying $700 million for the naming rights to the sports venue?

Covid boosters: California’s MyTurn site has opened booster appointments to anyone 18 and over, SFGate reports.

Instagram harms: Several state attorneys general opened an investigation into Meta (formerly known as Facebook), saying it promoted Instagram despite knowing of the harms it caused to teenagers.

Democrats divided: A plan by House Democrats to reduce taxes for high earners in California and other states is becoming an early political albatross for the party.


Weather warning: Gusty winds and low humidity will create increased fire danger in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties starting on Sunday morning.

Police killing: The child of a Black man fatally shot by the police in 2018 has settled a federal lawsuit with the city of Gardena for $1.3 million, The Associated Press reports.

No more grocery store lines: Amazon has opened its first store in California where customers can carry items out without waiting in a checkout line, CBS Los Angeles reports.

U.S.C. building renamed: The University of Southern California is naming its international and public affairs building after Joseph Medicine Crow, a U.S.C. graduate and the tribal historian for the Apsaalooke, or Crow, Nation, The Associated Press reports.


Weather warning: Gusty winds and low humidity could create increased fire danger in San Luis Obispo County starting on Sunday morning.

Mask refusal: Students at a Turlock Unified School District board meeting were asked to leave because some people refused to wear masks, The Modesto Bee reports.


“A drinking club with a charity problem”: A San Francisco Chronicle investigation finds that the philanthropic mission of the nonprofit Active 20-30 has long been overshadowed by partying, binge drinking and a culture that normalized sexual violence.

The organization enabled one of its longtime members, Dominic Foppoli, the former mayor of a Sonoma County town who has been accused of sexual assault by several women, the newspaper reports.

Professor charged with arson: A former college professor was charged with arson, accused of starting four wildfires in Northern California this year, The Associated Press reports.

Anti-discrimination policy: Caste is now part of the anti-discrimination policy at the University of California, Davis, The Associated Press reports.

What we’re eating

Garlic soup.


A tour group at Montana de Oro State Park.Credit…David Middlecamp/The Tribune, via Associated Press

Where we’re traveling

Today’s travel tip comes from Chris Ungar, who lives in Los Osos:

“No trip to the Central Coast would be complete without a stop at Montana de Oro State Park near the San Luis Obispo County town of Los Osos. There are bluffs overlooking the crashing surf, whales spouting, miles of hiking and biking trails, views of the Estero Bay and Morro Bay, a campground and a small visitor center. Come on a clear spring day when vast fields of poppies turn the park a fiery orange. Hike along the Pecho Coast trail past the site of the ‘Pete’s Dragon’ lighthouse to Windy Point then look south toward the surreal form of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. By the way, entry to the park is free.”

Tell us

What are your favorite books about California? Email your suggestions to

And before you go, some good news

Amid a string of car robberies, San Franciscans have adopted creative ways of retrieving their stolen belongings.

People who have lost items post descriptions online. Others share photos of “luggage dumps,” scenes of discarded clothes and other personal effects found after the break-ins.

So when a family visiting San Francisco from Kentucky recently had their car broken into, the internet did its thing, NBC Bay Area reports.

A woman posted a photo of the luggage dump online. The family identified their stuff and retrieved their belongings, including an Army backpack one of them had used while serving two tours in the Middle East.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend. I’ll be back Monday. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Question pronounced like its last letter (3 letters).

Steven Moity and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at

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