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Music / The Mamas & the Papas

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"All the leaves are brown..."note 

"John and Mitchy were gettin' kind of itchy
Just to leave the folk music behind
Zal and Denny workin' for a penny
Tryin' to get a fish on the line
In a coffee house Sebastian sat
And after every number they'd pass the hat
McGuinn and McGuire just a-gettin' higher
In L.A., you know where that's at
And no one's gettin' fat except Mama Cass!"
— "Creeque Alley"

The Mamas & the Papas were an American folk rock group from Los Angeles, California, that formed in 1965 and disbanded in 1968, with a brief reunion in 1971. The group was composed of John Phillips (19352001), Denny Doherty (19402007), Cass Elliot (19411974), and Michelle Phillips, née Gilliam (b. 1944). Known for their soaring vocal harmonies, they released five studio albums and seventeen singles, six of which made the Top Ten, and have sold close to 40 million records worldwide.

"Papa John" Philips also helped to organize the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 along with record producer Lou Adler and Alan Pariser. This now-legendary festival provided huge career boosts for Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Ravi Shankar, Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding. (The Mamas & the Papas would end up being the closing act for the festival after The Beach Boys were unable to close as originally planned.)

Their song "California Dreamin'" was ranked #89 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, while their album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears was ranked #112 on the magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Studio albums by the Mamas & the Papas:

  • If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears (1966)
  • The Mamas & the Papas (1966)
  • Deliver (1967)
  • The Papas & the Mamas (1968)
  • People Like Us (1971)

"California Tropin' on such a winter's day":

  • Band of Relatives: John and Michelle were husband and wife.
  • Downer Ending: A lot of their post-breakup work.
  • Fat and Skinny: Cass Elliot (fat) and Michelle Phillips (skinny). One of the few female examples of the trope.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: The group consisted of two men and two women.
  • Hating on Monday: "Monday, Monday"
    Every other day, (every other day)
    Every other day of the week is fine, yeah
    But whenever Monday comes (But whenever Monday comes)
    You can find me crying all of the time
  • Location Song: "California Dreaming'"
  • Love Dodecahedron: Oooh, boy. Michelle and John Phillips were married when the band formed (and they had one child), then Michelle had affairs with both Doherty and Gene Clark, as well as a relationship with record producer Russ Titelman. Then, years after both the band and the Phillips broke up, John allegedly had sexual relations with his daughter.
  • Mutual Envy: Referenced in "Creeque Alley":
    Zally said "Denny, you know there aren't many
    Who can sing a song the way that you do, let's go south"
    Denny said "Zally, golly, don't you think that I wish
    I could play guitar like you
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Creeque Alley".
  • Rock Star Song: "Creeque Alley" is a musical memoir about the band's struggle for success and commercial breakthrough.note 
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: When John ousted Michelle from the group in 1966 (as punishment for her having an affair with The Byrds' Gene Clark), Jill Gibson was brought in as a replacement. Like Michelle, Jill was a willowy blonde who sang in a soprano register, and she contributed vocals to a number of tracks on the group's self-titled second album before John decided the chemistry wasn't right and Michelle was brought back into the fold.
  • Urban Legend: No, Cass didn't die by choking on a ham sandwich note  although she did die in the same room that Keith Moon later died in note .