John Phillips, Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, and Michelle Phillips were the members of the legendary group The Mamas & the Papas which represented a “defining force in the music scene of the counterculture of the 1960s.”
During their three years as a folk rock vocal group, they achieved the unthinkable. Selling millions of copies and having huge hits such as California Dreamin’, Monday Monday, Snowqueen of Texas and Dream A Little Dream of Me, the group changed the world of music forever and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
One of the singers, Cass Elliot, or better known as Mama Cass, somehow stood out of the rest of the members.
Her voice was dubbed angelic and she possessed out-of-this-world singing skills. Sadly, she passed away very young, at the age of 32, and according to initial reports the reason was that she chocked on a sandwich.
Mama Cass was born Ellen Cohen on September 11, 1941 in Baltimore, Maryland and at the age of 4 she could speak four languages. She was always very special. Bright and quite intelligent, and always a big girl. According to the book Dream a Little Dream of Me: The Life of ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot, she herself was confirmed saying, “I’ve always been different. I’ve been fat since I was seven. Being fat sets you apart, but luckily I was bright with it; I had an IQ of 165. I got into the habit of being independent and the habit became a design for living.”
At the age of 17, Mama Cass moved to New York and changed her name to Cass Elliot.
She dreamed of pursuing a career in the entertainment industry and toured with the musical The Music Man for a short period of time.
In 1962, she auditioned for the Broadway production I Can Get it for You Wholesale, but she didn’t get the role. Instead, then young Barbara Streisand did. Mama Cass then moved to Washington to study at the American University.
Mama Cass passed away in 1974. It was initially believed the cause of death was choking, but the truth is the musician died of a heart attack.
One of her closest friends, Sue Cameron, spoke this year to People Magazine of the night preceding Mama Cass’ death when she played two shows at The Palladium in London, UK. “After she had played two nights there, she called crying with joy telling me that she had got a standing ovation both nights and she had sold out both nights, she was just as happy as I’d ever seen her or heard her,” Cameron recalled.
Cameron was a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter when she got a call from Mama Cass’ manager Allan Carr. “[He] picked up the phone and he was hysterical. Allan said, ‘You’ve got to tell them that she died choking on a ham sandwich. You must go to your typewriter and write that. There’s a half of a ham sandwich on her nightstand.’ I didn’t ask any questions,” said Cameron.
In 1998, legendary Mama Cass was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
She was a woman who was never afraid to pursue her dreams. Her weight never stood on her way to happiness and success and that turned her into a role model for many young girls who struggled with their weight.
Owen, who is now married and has two children, said of her mother, “She was a one-woman triumph against adversity; she was ahead of her time; women now are finally doing what she did 50 years ago. I look back on her and realize that, just by example, she taught me, and others, not to accept it when someone says you can’t do something.”