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San Francisco prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Tony Bennett's hallmark ballad

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Tony Bennett At the stroke of noon on Tuesday, music will blast out over the shoppers in Union Square and the homeless people in Hallidie Plaza. The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus will chime in from the City Hall rotunda, along with the big-hatted belters from Beach Blanket Babylon. Radio stations have been asked to preempt the midday news.

And if Mayor Ed Lee has his way, San Franciscans from Nob Hill to Noe Valley, the Presidio to Potrero Hill, will look up from their computer keyboards, drop what they're doing and burst into song. The same song. The one this storied city's residents love to hate and hate to love: I left my heart in San Francisco. High on a hill, it calls to me ....

It is, more or less, the 50th anniversary of when Tony Bennett first crooned San Francisco's musical Rorschach test in the Venetian Room of the Fairmont Hotel, and the mustachioed mayor with the Busby Berkeley bent is presiding over a civic extravaganza in honor of the 85-year-old legend with the silver hair and golden pipes.

“Thanks to Tony Bennett, people have been experiencing the magic of San Francisco for 50 years no matter where they are in the world," Lee said in a written statement announcing the festivities. “The song reminds us of why we love our city so much and when we are away, it calls us home."

At least two people, however, are all but guaranteed to spurn the noontime chorus: the men who together dethroned the onetime official song of San Francisco, who stopped those little cable cars from climbing halfway to the stars, more than a quarter-century ago.

That's when then-Supervisor Quentin Kopp—who described “I Left My Heart" as “a schmaltzy jingle," the fault of the “hippie-love movement" and unworthy of the city it aimed to honor—introduced a resolution to instead make the theme from the 1936 earthquake movie “San Francisco" the official song of Baghdad by the Bay.

Lyrics to Tony Bennett's song

The loveliness of Paris seems somehow sadly gay

The glory that was Rome is of another day

I've been terribly alone and forgotten in Manhattan

I'm going home to my city by the Bay

I left my heart in San Francisco

High on a hill, it calls to me

To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars

The morning fog may chill the air, I don't care

My love waits there in San Francisco

Above the blue and windy sea

When I come home to you, San Francisco

Your golden sun will shine for me

— George Cory and Douglass Cross


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