Singer Scott McKenzie Dead at 73

North Carolina native sang 'San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers In Your Hair)'

Scott McKenzie
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
August 20, 2012 10:30 AM ET

Singer Scott McKenzie, best known for the 1967 hit "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers In Your Hair)," has died at 73, the BBC reports. McKenzie had been suffering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease affecting the nervous system.

McKenzie was born Philip Wallach Blondheim and grew up in North Carolina. He and John Phillips, who later formed the Mamas and the Papas, played together as teens in a doowop act called the Abstracts and moved to New York, where Blondheim changed his name after comedian Jackie Curtis noted that the singer resembled a Scottie dog. With the rise of folk music, McKenzie and Phillips switched their focus, forming the Journeymen with banjo player Dick Weissman and recording three albums before splitting in 1964. Although Phillips invited his old friend along when he formed the Mamas and the Papas, McKenzie preferred a solo career. The pair remained close, and when Phillips wrote "San Francisco," he had McKenzie sing on the record. The track became a counterculture anthem and hit Number 4 in the U.S. and Number 1 on the U.K. charts.

McKenzie released two more solo albums but left music in the late Sixties, relocating to Virginia Beach, Virginia, to escape the limelight. He made a comeback in the late Eighties, touring with the Mamas and the Papas and penning the Beach Boys hit "Kokomo." He also performed at the 20th anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 2002.

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