The Mamas and The Papas

by Erika Cox
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The Mamas and The Papas were a California singing group in the 1960's that focused on harmony with a pop-folk style.

While the British Invasion was ruling the airwaves and the music industry, The Mamas and The Papas were able to maintain a strong fan base and musical consistency throughout the time the group was together. The group was part of the California sound in the 1960's that included the Beach Boys and The Byrds to name a few. Their sound was fresh, harmonious, and combined the popular folk and pop styles of the day.

The Mamas and The Papas consisted of two female and two male singers - Denny Doherty, Cass Elliott, John Phillips, and Michelle Phillips. John and Michelle were married before the group formed. John Phillips was the force behind the group in charge of the production, composition, and arrangements of the group's songs and melodies.

The group's folk background was strongly influenced by John Phillip's folk background as part of the Journeymen, which was a popular folk trio during the mid-1960's.

The other members, Cass Elliott and Denny Doherty, were also part of former groups. The group formed when Denny, Michelle, and John were singing together as the substitute Journeymen and was later joined by Cass Elliott, who had added a strong alto singing voice.

The group formed in October 1965, changed their names a couple of times settling on The Mamas and The Papas.

They recorded their first single, "California Dreamin", which was a huge hit and is still a popular anthem for California. Their first number one hit was with their hit, "Monday, Monday." The group went on to have a number of top ten hits and became very popular with their style of music, singing, and harmony.

The group had a very successful career in a relatively short career that lasted from 1965 to 1968. They recorded five albums and had ten hit singles.

Member John Phillips was one of the people responsible for arranging the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967, which featured a number of new artists many of which became huge success stories. Despite success with their harmonious singing, the members of the group became less than harmonious with each other.

Among some of the tensions that plagued the group were John Phillips heavy drug use, his contentious relationship with wife Michelle, and Cass Elliott's desire to start a solo career. Eventually, the group broke up in 1968 but would record their last song together in 1971.

Cass Elliott would go on to have a somewhat successful solo career but due to health problems she died in 1974 from a heart attack. John and Michelle eventually divorced in 1970. Michelle went on to have a successful music and acting career but John fell deep into drug addiction and destruction.

The Mamas and The Papas were a very successful and influential group in the 1960's despite their short reign. Many groups like the Mamas and The Papas from the 1960's had a short career span but gained immense popularity and success.

The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000. The surviving members now include, Denny Doherty and Michelle Phillips. John Phillips died in 2001 also of heart failure.

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