The album cover of Miss Abrams and the Strawberry Point 4th Grade Class’ “Mill Valley” song. Courtesy image.
Pandemics don’t provide a ton of truly celebratory moments, and this COVID-19 crisis has been no different.

But we’d be remiss if we let this particular celebration – the 50th Anniversary of the release of Reprise’s release of “Mill Valley,” a tribute to the town we call home – without marking the moment that, for many, put Mill Valley on the map.

Rita Abrams, the Strawberry Point School third grade teacher who wrote the song about our town for her kindergarten class to sing 50 years ago, had hoped for a large gathering of both newfound and longtime Mill Valleyans on the Depot Plaza to celebrate the anniversary. But with such large gatherings impossible amidst the COVID-19 crisis, a virtual celebration will have to suffice.

For Abrams, the anniversary reminds her of her deep ties to the 94941 and her moment of mini-stardom, when her song about a town that “looks as pretty in the rain as in the sun” briefly brought the 94941 into the national consciousness.

PictureA collection of newspaper and magazine clippings from around the time of the release of the “Mill Valley” song, along with a photo of Abrams and her students taken by acclaimed photographer Annie Liebowitz, at center right, and a Mill Valley School District promotion of a recent “Mill Valley” song contest. Courtesy images.

​”It was 50 years ago that Sam Schneider of Varney’s Hardware proposed to the Mill Valley City Council that our Mill Valley song become the official town song, and the rest is history—50 years of history, spanning wars, fires, droughts, pandemics, and socio-cultural upheavals,” Abrams says.

But while every anniversary of the song’s creation has brought back fond memories and reunions with her (now-middle-aged) former students, Abrams admits that the song’s stunning success – it spent three weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a radio staple – had remained a bit of a blur.

“It all just happened so fast back then,” she says with a laugh.

To add clarity to that blur, Abrams and Terry McGovern, the KSFO disc jockey who played the song on the radio for the first time in June 1970, built an entire show around the song itself in conjunction with its 45th anniversary. That show included an audio-visual component about the song and its history – photos and interviews with the likes of Sammy Hagar, former Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres and many of the Strawberry Point students who sang on the song. It also includes short films, particularly the original “Mill Valley” video, shot by a young filmmaker named Francis Ford Coppola before he became Hollywood royalty, as well as “Mill Valley Redux,” the 2014 recreation of the song by local filmmaker Tiffany Shlain.

“It’s like opening up my amazing scrapbook to my whole community and friends,” Abrams says of the multimedia component. “The things I’m finding are remarkable.”

To commemorate the latest major anniversary, the Mill Valley School District created a participatory video project that allowed anyone to submit a video of their own rendition of the “Mill Valley” song or simply sharing thoughts on what makes it special to afinlaw@mvschools.org. You can also share on social media with #MVThatsMyHome (and tag @mv_schools).

‘Mill Valley’ song

‘Mill Valley Redux,’ the 2014 recreation of the song by local filmmaker Tiffany Shlain