Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dream a little dream of me...

I was originally going to do a post on Michelle Phillips, the stunning blonde from the sixties hippie band, The Mamas & the Papas.

But then I realized she was just a pretty face who slept with a bunch of famous people.

Mama Cass, however, was fucking awesome.



Here is her story:



The beautiful and fabulous Cass Elliot grew up in Washington D.C. and fell in love with acting. Upon graduating high school, she made a splash in the New York City theater scene. Quickly, her strong voice was recognized by musicians and she joined a couple folk groups.



It was during this time that an almost-tragic accident miraculously gave Mama Cass an even BETTER singing voice!

"It’s true, I did get hit on the head by a pipe that fell down and my range was increased by three notes. They were tearing this club apart in the islands, revamping it, putting in a dance floor. Workmen dropped a thin metal plumbing pipe and it hit me on the head and knocked me to the ground. I had a concussion and went to the hospital. I had a bad headache for about two weeks and all of a sudden I was singing higher. It’s true. Honest to God."
-Mama Cass, Rolling Stone Magazine, 1968




After the accident, she was asked to join a newly formed folk band, The Mamas & the Papas, even though member John Phillips considered her too fat and unattractive.



Unfortunately, being overweight in the Twiggy days of the 1960s was a frustrating dilemma for the brilliant singer-songwriter. She struggled through failed crash diets her entire life.



Ironically, despite her obesity, Mama Cass ended up being the most-loved member of the iconic band. Fans immediately realized that Mama Cass was the true talent of the four musicians.



Plus, she became an unexpected sex symbol. The other band members recall crazed fans throwing up their hotel room keys to Mama Cass, desperate for her attention. She even posed for a very famous magazine cover, wearing nothing but a few daisies.



She also overshadowed her bandmate, Michelle, as a fashion symbol for the hippie crowd.



Despite her raging success as a folk musician, Mama Cass's love life was barely hanging by a thread.

She married twice: once in 1968 to save a friend from being drafted into the Vietnam War and the second time to a prominent journalist, who was the heir to a Bavarian barony. But the second marriage only lasted a few months before it crumbled.

She also had a daughter out of wedlock and never revealed the father. Michelle Phillips helped her daughter discover her father years later.



When The Mamas & the Papas broke up in 1971, she began a flourishing solo career. By this point, the bubbly brunette had become extremely close friends with several rock icons, including Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton.



She had just completed two weeks of sold out concerts in London when she unexpectedly died in her flat at the age of 32.



It was famously reported in all the tabloids that Mama Cass died choking on a ham sandwich. That is not true. A doctor merely saw a ham sandwich and a champagne glass sitting on her bed stand. He speculated the food could have been the cause. An autopsy soon declared she had suffered a heart attack during her sleep and no food was found in her windpipe.



Unfortunately, the story, which has become a cruel source of mockery towards the overweight singer, still persists in the minds of music lovers today.

Her best solo song is below. I hope you enjoy it.


55 comments:

JUST ME said...

That first album picture...I would have murdered whoever published it.

Love her music, though.

Sarah said...

Dream A Little Dream is beautiful :)
x

Kavery said...

Wow- I didn't know that side of her at all.

Despina said...

i didn't know her but she seems like a very interesting personality.she certenly is a figure that you cannot easily forget!your posts are always so informative! :)

Mimi said...

this is the first time i've learned of her. thanks for broadening my horizon! :)

<3, Mimi
http://whatmimiwrites.blogspot.com/

Shannon said...

I've heard of Mama Cass, but I never knew much of her story. I swear, every time I read your blog, I learn so much.

It's a good thing.

Courtney Erin said...

She was one of my childhood idols - love her!

xoxo ~ Courtney
http://sartorialsidelines.blogspot.com

MG said...

Two things: first thing - bloglovin won't let me comment, assholes. Second thing - i always really liked her, regardless of her pudge. California Dreamin' as freaking stereotypical as it is, always lifts my spirits.

Couture Carrie said...

Fabulous post, darling!
Loving all these pics!

xoxox,
CC

Alicia said...

I love how some of your posts can be personal or silly while others are interesting or inspiring. It's easy to see your journalistic writing abilities :)

Tanvi said...

I feel so ignorant. I have never even heard of these people!

♥ from © tanvii.com

David L Macaulay said...

An interesting post as always J - never heard of her. She reminds me of a Klimt painting.

Meri said...

Great coverage of her! I love these posts Jennifer! How incredible that an accident turned out so well, right?

Andrés Corella said...

The song is amazing!! You know I´ve always found a little bit disturbing the whole grudge against bigger people in the music industry...talent is not an image, singing is not to be seen is to be felt..I dont care if its fat, thin or even a midget if it makes me feel..I´m hooked!

xx
Andy
The Black Label

Josie said...

Okay, I LOVE the song! Really lovely.
xo Josie
www.winksmilestyle.com

Fashion Confessions of a Mommy said...

Cool post.
Enjoyed reading it.
Daphne.
http://fashiondivamommy.blogspot.com

Vintage Vixen said...

Mama Cass was always my favourite, she was the one with talent and the most cool dresses ever.
There's a few pictures I haven't seen before, I'd love to pinch one for my side bar. That one with Jimi is epic.
Thanks for this, you've made my morning. xxx

M said...

I loved reading this little bio - it was both interesting and well written. Michelle was always my favorite out of the two of them when I was younger, guess why...? I'm blaming my mom!

indianmakeupways said...

well, i never knew anything about her. but she sure sounds like an interesting persnality. too bad tat she died so young :(

Sherin said...

Wow, what an icon. The story behind her singing voice is pretty incredible. I never heard of her before, but she sounds awesome!!

Marie said...

WOw I had no idea about her story...so beautiful and sad. She was such a talent, I've always loved them....


-Marie
So What If I Like Pretty Things

Cafe Fashionista said...

What a fantastic mini-biography, Jennifer. Mama Cass was such an incredible talent - I cannot resist her voice! :)

Fashion, Art and other fancies said...

Ah, one must always dream a little.
She was a true artistic. People were drawn to her becasue she was talented and had an artistic & poetic spirit which of course made her somewhat fragile, but also strong. xx

Movies on my Mind said...

You have shattered a long standing image I’ve had in my head of Mama Cass choking on her ham sandwich in swinging ‘60s London. It was an amazingly odd footnote in pop music history that kinda, in a respectful way, suited her passing the way Billy the Kid’s death by pistols was a most apposite end for him.

amy b.s. said...

i think you already said it best. she was fucking awesome.

Vanilla - notes from my closet said...

Dream a little dream of me is going to be our first dance at our wedding :)

Love, vanilla

http://notesfrommycloset.blogspot.com/

Olga said...

A wonderful post about a 60s icon. I really love the selection of photos. I think she was spectacular.

Mouthwash said...

Wow! One of my favorite songs is by the Mama's and the Papa's (CA Dreamin'), but I knew absolutely nothing about them. I love how decided to do this post of Cass - THAT sentence made me laugh out loud. Love your reasoning!

Awesome post Jennifer!

Sandra said...

Actually, I had heard the "choking on a ham sandwich" story as well. This was a great post, and has made me reminiscent for the days of good music. I don't want to sound like an old grandma, but all that rap stuff with lyrics about women being degraded just doesn't cut it.

Venus In Virgo said...

Huge fan of her! I'm glad you are around to spotlight all the beautiful amazing people for everyone on the web who may have never heard of them. GREAT JOB! XOXO

Tights Lover said...

Wow. I'm having flashbacks of road trips with my parents as a child! They were both big fans...

Aside from that, I didn't know much about her. I must confess, I thought the ham sandwich thing was true! I'm glad you set me straight. This was a great read!

Katie said...

Mama Cass sounds really cool. I've never explored classic 70s music .. but I should. I love the 70s. My parents were hippies and still are.

Bonnie said...

"Dream a Little Dream" was one of my possible first dance songs at my wedding.
I'm still going to have it played, even though it won't be the first dance song anymore.
Because it is cute and romantic and I love the Mamas and the Papas.

http://www.glamkittenslitterbox.com/
Twitter: @GlamKitten88

galatea. said...

this is a really lovely post you did. thanks for sharing. i feel a better appreciation for her x

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

This is a great story and blog. I love the Mamas and the Papas and I especially like that the injury improved her singing. That's pretty miraculous.
I found you through David and am a new follower.
Cheers,
Robyn

Kristin said...

Such a tragic tale. She loved her bandmate and Michelle slept with him!

*Glam Chameleon* said...

Wow what a beautiful story hun, I didn't know all those details, thank u for sharing them!! I can not believe she actually wasn't born with the singing gift and voice, that part is so inspiring- the miracles are happening!!!:)
kisses
Jelena
http://glamfabchameleon.blogspot.com/

Heather Taylor said...

My Dad used to play the Mamas and the Papas when I was little when we'd drive to run errands- "California Dreamin'" was my favorite. It kept me warm on the coldest of winter afternoons, which I'm dedicating to Mama Cass' pipes. She was such a presence in the group, it makes me sad that so many people focused on Michelle Phillips instead.

Michelle's Style File said...

Cool post- I love mamas & papas!
x
Michelle
www.michellesstylefile.blogspot.com

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

What a great memorial.

Heart attack at 32? Wow? She must have been burning the candle at both ends!

Melanie's Randomness said...

One of my prized possessions is a Mammas and the Papas record album. I framed it and it's now on my wall. The one where they are all in the bathtub. Mama Cass was a very interesting woman...very interesting!

Melanie's Randomness

The Blonde Duck said...

Such a complicated woman.

And I'm glad you liked my beauty post! :) Did you get your prize?

district5 said...

Emotional story. Thank you so much for sharing!

Christine
http://district5-fashion.blogspot.com/

Missy said...

oh I love this! Fab pics x

Missy
Blending Style and Celeb
http://thefashionfusion.blogspot.com

jos xx said...

never heard about this person, or at least i knew about her but didn't know her name, so thanks for sharing the post!

jos xx

drollgirl said...

um, this is the best and most interesting post i have seen in a while. i am kind of tearing up. she was a major talent, and i can only imagine how difficult it was to be a pop star and not LOOK like one. things haven't changed all that much with today's pop stars.

very sad to hear that she died so young. but she was a major talent, and it was nice to read more about her here!

wardrobemag said...

Dream a little dream of me is one of my favourite songs ever, I used to love it when I was a little girl

Bhav x

FashionJazz said...

Wow, ur post was so interesting hun! I love the Mammas and the Pappas and I didn't know know this side to her at all : ) hope u are having a good week! X

Melissa: Write it in Lipstick said...

what a cool bio how sad how she died and rude reports. Love her voice.

very married said...

oh wow - what a fabulous story. i always loved Cass but didn't know the whole truth.

Samantha said...

That's really sad that people would mock her after her death. She has such an amazing story and should definitely be remembered for that.

Thanks for visiting my blog! :o)

-Samantha

http://thisfashionista.blogspot.com

Petra Bellejambes said...

Just read your comments on Tights Lover's blog and simply had to visit you. Here I find a love for Morrisey, Mama Cass, and more of your merry manic manner and I must tell you that I am more or less defenseless Jennifer.

Fabulous you are. Have a lovely weekend and thanks for the fun.

xo - Petra

Nikosmommy said...

I just watched a documentary about the M&P's last week! It was focused on Denny (the other guy in the band) but it talked about their whole history. So interesting!

Great post!

Luxembourg said...

Being a UK admirer of Jackie's voice, I've had the pleasure of living with this album for more than a week (it was released to coincide with BGT).
To say it grows on you is an understatement. To hear these songs together as in one concert-like experience is a joy that leads to repeated playings.

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