In the Spring of 1967 San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) became a hit all over the world. The record was produced by Lou Adler and Papa John Phillips, written by Phillips, and sung by Scott McKenzie.
Scott 'dropped out' in the late 60's. In 1970 he moved to Joshua Tree, a California desert town near Palm Springs. In 1973 he went to Virginia Beach, VA, where he lived for 10 years.
In 1986, original Papa's Denny Doherty and John Phillips, with Mackenzie Phillips (John Phillips' daughter) and Spanky McFarlane (ex Spanky and Our Gang) as female vocalists took a new version of the group onto the nostalgia circuit. Later, when Denny left the group, Scott joined John Phillips as the second Papa. However, when John left due to ill health, Denny returned and Scott took the role vacated by John Phillips.
In 1988 Scott co-wrote the Beach Boys hit Kokomo with former Papa, John Phillips, Beach Boy Mike Love and the late Terry Melcher, long time producer of the Beach Boys.
Scott spent much of the 1990's touring with the Mamas and Papas. Eventually, with no original members left, the group disbanded.
In the 21st Century Scott still performed on occasions. He performed in Germany and in 2003 performed on a PBS Folk special. During March 2005, PBS broadcast a concert called "My Generation -- the 60's Experience." In the show Scott sings San Francisco and at the end of the program – unannounced – a song called We've Been Asking Questions, one of the last songs written by John Phillips before his death in 2001.
In 2009 Scott recorded the Denny Doherty song Gone To Sea Again.
In retirement Scott lived in LA and became a big fan of Facebook where he had many friends in his "Asylum". Scott was in and out of hospital since 2010 after falling ill with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease affecting the nervous system. It is thought he may have had a heart attack in early August, 2012. Staff did not want him to leave the hospital, but he wanted to be at home and passed away on 18th August 2012.
Scott's last Facebook message included a poem written just days before his death:
The Final Ride
© Scott McKenzie (17 August 2012)
But, OH! How I wish I was a true cowboy,
with a great Appaloosa waiting to gallop away,
me sitting on his back, deep into my desert,
far beyond my precious Joshua Tree,
where dreams are made, beautiful dreams,
but this time I need to travel deep into the unknown.
And will I ever come back?
Right now I say no, never.
Oh well, a dream's a dream's a dream's a dream.
Oh, but my mighty Appalooosa's eyes keep firing up,
and his nostrils keep flaring as he transcends the stink and pettiness beneath him,
half riding, half flying toward place still unscarred by any unnatural activity.
ONWARD AND UPWARD! FULL SPEED AHEAD,
MY BEAUTIFUL, MAJESTIC APPALOOSA!
CARRY US ALL TO THE REGIONS WHERE WE CAN DREAM,
WITH NO FEAR AT ALL,
UNINTERRUPTED AND FOREVER FREE FROM FEAR.