Singer-songwriter John Stewart’s own “Brigadoon”-ish song, “Bolinas,” shares real-life traits with the Lerner & Lowe stage and film hit’s mythical Scottish town. Stewart’s 1971 recording tells his story of a small Northern California beach town that is almost mythical in its off-the-beaten path location and citizens’ reclusiveness and disdain of development and outsiders. Today, even almost 45 years after Stewart recorded the song with his future wife, Buffy Ford, Bolinas remains locked in time, a period that reminds one of 1960s and early 70s culture with its buildings, cars, dress, and attitudes. There is a reason people live in Bolinas. The town is not easy to find and residents want to keep it that way. Over the years directional signs on Highway 1 have been removed by locals; at least one sign is in the local museum. Bolinas is really a state of mind more than an actual place and that’s what Stewart wrote about in his song. The courthouse clock and railroad track may never have existed outside Stewart’s song, but their imagery only contributes to this amazing recording—along with “the mayor digging for clams and the people who don’t give a damn.”

“Bolinas” features a rare backing chamber orchestration in a John Stewart song. Arranger Jimmie Haskell who had worked once ten years before with Stewart when he was in the Kingston Trio, provides a small string section and a beautiful oboe solo. Together with John’s and Buffy’s blended voices, the recording–and the song–are Stewart fan favorites.

To skip to “Bolinas” go to 30:00 on the timeline.


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