The official state song of California is I Love You, California. Written in 1913 by a clothing merchant from Los Angeles named Francis Bernard Silverwood, the process for making it the state song of California did not begin until 1951. The state legislature introduced and passed a resolution on 26 April 1951, naming I Love You, California as the state song. In 1988, California Government Code 421.7 made it the official state song.
The lyrics for I Love You, California were written by Silverwood, but the musical score was composed by the conductor of the Opheum Theatre Orchestra at the time, Abraham Franklin Frankenstein. Before serving as the state song of California, the song enjoyed wide public appeal and was featured prominently at numerous historic occasions in California.
In late 1913, Mary Garden, a star of the Chicago Grand Opera, became the first person to perform the song for a public audience. News reports at the time credited Garden's performance with ensuring the success and popularity of Silverwood's song. Another historic occasion came with the completion of the Panama Canal. As the SS Acron became first merchant ship to navigate the finished canal, I Love You, California played from the deck. By 1915, the song had become the official song for expositions held in both San Diego and San Francisco.
With a rich history of close association with the state, it is understandable that I Love You, California should become the state song of California. The song has had steep competition over the years for official state song status, however. Many people mistakenly believe that California, Here I Come, written and composed by Buddy DeSylva and Joseph Meyer in 1921, is the state song of California. Since legendary entertainer Al Jolson recorded the song in 1924, many residents, civic groups and legislators have suggested it as a candidate.
Although California Government Code 421.7 legally made I Love You, California the state song of California, the wording of the code does not make it the only state song. Specifically, the statute reads that I Love You, California is an official state song, rather than the official state song of California. Such wording does allow for additional state songs to be added.