A statement on McKenzie’s website says the 73-year-old died on Saturday in Los Angeles. McKenzie battled Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease that affects the nervous system, and had been in and out of the hospital since 2010.
“San Francisco” was written by John Phillips, the leader of the 1960s group The Mamas and the Papas. But McKenzie sang it and it has stood as an anthem for the 1960s counterculture movement.
In an effort to further his career as a musician he had changed his name from Philip Wallach Blondheim, but when Phillips formed the Mamas and Papas he declined an invitation to join them. He released two singles on his own before Phillips and Lou Adler, who were organising the Monterey Pop Festival, saw San Francisco as an ideal way to promote the first major rock event and the rest was history.
McKenzie went on to release two solo albums but further hits eluded him. San Francisco, the song that for many epitomised hippie counter-culture, also rang through eastern Europe. McKenzie regularly dedicated it to US veterans who had fought in Vietnam and sang at the 20th anniversary of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington in 2002.