Mama Cass Elliot Biography
Claim to Fame: Singer, The Mamas & the Papas
DOB: September 19, 1941
Date of Death: July 29, 1974
Diabetes Type: Unknown
Born Ellen Naomi Cohen, Mama Cass Elliot was an American singer and member of the 60’s band The Mamas & the Papas along with Denny Doherty and John and Michelle Phillips. Cass was born in Baltimore, Maryland, but grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. Throughout high school, Cass was involved with musical theater and performed in a number of stage productions. Initially set to attend college, Cass pursued a career in theater instead. Before graduating from high school, Cass set out for New York where she initially had success, but later struggled to find acting jobs. In one notable audition for “I Can Get It For You Wholesale,” Cass lost the lead part to Barbara Streisand.
In 1962, Cass returned to Washington with the intention of attending American University, only to find herself on the path toward a musical career. While attending classes, Cass met folk singers Tim Rose and John Brown, joining them in becoming The Triumvirate. In 1963, the band became The Big Three when folk musician, James Hendricks, replaced John Brown. That same year, the trio released their first album, entitled “Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod,” under FM Records. However, in 1964, despite their success, Tim Rose left the group, and Hendricks and Cass teamed up with Denny Doherty and Zal Yanovsky to become The Mugwumps. The group lasted for less than a year and, upon breaking up, Cass set out on a solo career.
While Cass was on her own, Denny Doherty joined The New Journeymen where he met John and Michelle Phillips. In 1965, after reuniting with Cass, the foursome formed the group, The Mamas & the Papas. The group enjoyed great success from 1965 to 1968, releasing a number of songs that became top ten hits, including “California Dreamin’ “ and “Monday, Monday.” However, by 1968 the group had begun to grow tired of one another and Cass, again, set out on a solo career. Despite great success apart, the group was obligated to perform until their contract expired in 1971. Of the four, Cass was the only one to have any success outside of the group. However, the musician struggled with alcoholism, diabetes, drug abuse and her weight throughout her life and, in 1974, after performing at the London Palladium, Cass was discovered dead in her hotel room. The death was believed to be the result of a heart attack, despite various rumors and speculation. Cass was thirty-two at the time of her death and had one daughter, Owen Elliot Kugell. In 1998, The Mamas & the Papas were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Kugell accepted the reward on her mother’s behalf.
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