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Music / The Mamas & the Papas

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From left to right: Denny Doherty, Michelle Phillips, John Phillips, Cass Elliot.

"All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray
I've been for a walk on a winter's day
I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A.
California dreamin' on such a winter's day"
— "California Dreamin'"

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 (1935–2001), Denny Doherty (1940–2007), Cass Elliot (1941–1974), 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 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Their album ''If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears;' was ranked #112 on the magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

"California Dreamin' on such a Troper's day":

  • Band of Relatives: John and Michelle were husband and wife.
  • Contemptible Cover: The original cover for their debut album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, depicted the group sitting in an empty bathtub with a toilet alongside. After the inclusion of the toilet prompted complaints from various Moral Guardians, the album was withdrawn and reissued with an altered cover featuring a graphic box blocking out the toilet.
  • Downer Ending: A lot of their post-breakup work.
  • Fat and Skinny: Cass Elliot (fat) & Michelle Phillips (skinny). One of the few female examples of the trope.
  • Advertisement:
  • 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 and his daughter allegedly began another relationship.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Creeque Alley"
  • Urban Legend: No, Cass didn't die by choking on a ham sandwich.


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