Tuesday, 15 July 2014

1974, Deaths: Cass Elliot

On 29 July 1974 the American pop singer Cass "Mama" Elliott died of a heart attack in London at the age of 32. Miss Elliott who became famous with "The Mamas & the Papas", became ill suddenly in her flat at 9 Curzon Place, Shepherd Market, Mayfair, after performing two weeks of sold-out concerts at the London Palladium.

Cass Elliot was born as Ellen Naomi Cohen in Baltimore on 19 February 1941. By the age of 17 she had started acting, and assumed the name Cass Elliot. Her father Philip Cohen, a restaurateur, had nicknamed her Cass. Elliot, she said later in an interview, was in honour of a friend killed in a car accident. The Cohens moved to Alexandria, Virginia, Washington, D.C. While still attending George Washington High School, she was cast in a school production of the play "The Boy Friend". She left high school shortly before graduation and moved to New York City to further her acting career.
Cass Elliot, Barry Levinson High School Yearbook Photo (1960)
She moved to Greenwich Village in New York at the age of 19 and appeared in a number of Off-Broadway productions. She also began to perform as a folk singer the New York folk scene. Elliot met the singers Tim Rose and John Brown, and the three began performing as "The Triumvirate". In 1963, James Hendricks, her first husband, replaced John Brown and the trio was renamed "The Big 3". When Tim Rose left The Big 3 in 1964, Elliot and Hendricks formed with the Canadians Zal Yanovsky and, future Papa, Denny Doherty "The Mugwumps".
The Big 3: Tim Rose, Cass Elliot and James Hendricks
The Mugwumps: Zal Yanovsky, James Hendricks, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty
This group split after only eight months and Cass performed as a solo act for a while. In the meantime Doherty joined “The New Journeymen”, a group including John Phillips and his wife, Michelle. In 1965, Doherty convinced Phillips that Elliot should join the group. It was Cass who came up with the idea of renaming the group “The Mamas & the Papas”.

The Mamas & the Papas: John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty
Elliot's powerful, distinctive voice was a large factor in the success of the group. She is best remembered for her vocals on the hits "California Dreamin'," "Monday Monday," and "Words of Love" and the solo "Dream a Little Dream of Me". After the breakup of “The Mamas & the Papas” in 1971, Elliot started a solo career.
Tom Jones and Cass Elliot in "This is Tom Jones" (abc, 1969)
On 26 April 1967 Elliot gave birth to her daughter, Owen Vanessa Elliot. She never publicly identified the father. In 1968 Elliot divorced James Hendricks and in 1971 she married Baron Donald von Wiedenman, a German nobleman. Their marriage ended in divorce after a few months.
Cass Elliot with daughter Owen Vanessa Elliot (1967)
Elliot Cass was cremated at the Hollywood Memorial Park, and is now buried in Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Michelle Phillips and John Phillips at Cass Elliot's funeral in 1974

Cass Elliot: Dream a little dream of me

The Mamas & The Papas: California Dreaming

The Mamas & The Papas: Monday Monday

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