One of my favorite groups has always been The Mamas and The Papas and I have featured them in past songs of the day. The group’s success is partly attributed to the amazing skills of John Phillips in his arrangement of the music. Another major part of the success of the group was the incredible singing voice of Cass Elliot.
Cass Elliot was born in 1941 and her given name was Ellen Naomi Cohen. She took the name Cass Elliot as a stage name. She sang and acted for a number of years as a young adult and was part of a group called The Big 3. That group broke up and Elliot plus Jim Hendricks (also of The Big 3) teamed up with Zal Yanovsky and Denny Doherty to create the Mugwumps. That group lasted for only eight months when Yanovsky joined John Sebastian to form The Lovin’ Spoonful. Cass went solo and Denny joined John and Michelle Phillips to form The New Journeymen.
Denny tried for a while to get Cass to join the group but John was very reluctant as Cass had a weight problem and felt it would not look good for the group. However, Denny finally convinced John and in 1965 the group was re-named The Mamas and The Papas.
Cass’ voice was prominently featured in a number of the group’s songs, most notably Words of Love and Dream a Little Dream of Me. It was this last song that convinced Cass to want to embark on a solo career. She had a very successful solo career with hits including Dream a Little Dream of Me, It’s Getting Better and Make Your Own Kind of Music.
At the height of her career, Cass was playing two sold out shows at the London Palladium. She was very excited as she was very well received. After playing the second night’s show, she went to bed, and never woke up, having a massive heart attack in her sleep. Unfortunately there is an urban legend about her death, that she died choking on a ham sandwich (a half eaten sandwich was found in her room) but the coroner’s report was very specific that she died of a heart attack and that no food was found in her trachea.
This tribute song of the day is two days late, as the 29th was the anniversary of her death, and she will live on in her music.
Here is one more video of Make Your Own Kind of Music.