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Cass Elliot (Ellen Naomi Cohen), one of the four members of The Mamas and the Papas, died from a heart attack at age 32 on this date in 1974. Elliot had already recorded as a big-voiced folksinger when the Mamas and the Papas began to harmonize in 1966, and her voice and charisma were a large part of their success before their break-up in 1971. Their hits, mostly written and arranged by Papa John Phillips, included “California Dreaming,” “Monday, Monday,” “Words of Love,” and “I Saw Her Again,” among several others. Elliot was a big woman, ranging in weight above 300 pounds, and her rapid, drug-fueled weight loss in 1973 as she was pursuing a reasonably successful solo career may have helped wreck her health. She was also a single mother and would not reveal the identity of her baby’s father, a rare choice in her time. The Mamas and the Papas were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009. To see her singing her solo number, “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” look below.
“[T]he group epitomized sunny optimism and galvanized westward-bound youths at the dawn of the hippie era with strong harmonies and expectant lyrics, all slightly ringed with darkness.” —New York Times