Cass Elliot (born September 19, 1941 – July 29, 1974), also known as Mama Cass, was an American singer and member of The Mamas & the Papas. After the group broke up, she released five solo albums. In 1998, Elliot, John Phillips, Denny Doherty, and Michelle Phillips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their work as The Mamas & the Papas.
Best-known as one of the singers of the renowned '60s psychedelic pop outfit the Mamas & the Papas, Cass Elliot (or Mama Cass), was born Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 19, 1941, in Baltimore, MD. Her family moved to Alexandria, VA when she was a child and she became interested in acting while in high school. She left before graduating to move to NYC to try her hand as a full-time actress. She adopted the name “Cass” (but not short for Cassandra) and the name Eliot for a HS friend who had died.
She toured in the musical The Music Man, but lost the part of Miss Marmelstein in I Can Get It for You Wholesale to Barbra Streisand in 1962.
With the folk music movement sweeping the nation around this time, Elliot formed the Big Three with other members Tim Rose and James Hendricks, issuing a few underappreciated albums (Live at the Recording Studio, The Big 3). The group eventually metamorphosized into the Mugwumps after Rose was replaced by a few other members, including Denny Doherty, but with only an obscure single to show for their hard work, the Mugwumps were kaput by 1964.
To make a long story short, Elliot and Doherty eventually teamed up with the husband/wife team of John and Michelle Phillips, forming the Mamas & the Papas by the mid-'60s. Although the group would only remain together for a few short years, their impact on the rock music world was great. Elliot, known for her sense of humor and optimism, was considered by some to be the most charismatic member of the group. Her powerful, distinctive voice was a major factor in their success.
She is best remembered for her vocals on the group's hits "California Dreamin'," "Monday Monday," and "Words of Love," and particularly for the solo "Dream a Little Dream of Me," which the group recorded in 1968 after learning about the death of Fabian Andre, one of the men who co-wrote it, whom Michelle Phillips had met years earlier. Elliot's version is noteworthy for its contemplative pace, whereas almost all earlier recordings of "Dream a Little Dream of Me" (including one by Nat King Cole and another by Ozzie Nelson) had been up-tempo versions—the song having been written in 1931 as a dance tune.
A popular legend about Elliot is that her vocal range was improved by three notes after she was hit on the head by some copper tubing while walking through a construction site behind the bar where The New Journeymen were playing in the Virgin Islands. Elliot herself confirmed the story in a 1968 interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
Upon the group's breakup in 1968, Elliot launched a solo career, issuing such albums as 1968's Dream a Little Dream of Me, 1969's Bubble Gum, Lemonade, & Something for Mama and Make Your Own Kind of Music, 1970's Mama's Big Ones, 1971's Dave Mason & Cass Elliot, 1972's The Road Is No Place for a Lady, and finally, 1973's Don't Call Me Mama Anymore. In addition, Elliot hosted two prime time TV specials of her own in 1969 and 1973, and appeared on numerous TV shows in the early '70s (including co-hosting The Tonight Show, as well as programs by Mike Douglas, Johnny Cash, Ed Sullivan, Carol Burnett, Tom Jones, and Red Skelton).
At the height of her solo career in 1974, Elliot performed two weeks of sold-out concerts at the London Palladium. She telephoned Michelle Phillips after the final concert on July 28, elated that she had received standing ovations each night. She then retired for the evening, and died in her sleep at age 32. Sources state her death was due to a heart attack. Elliot died in a London flat, No. 12 at 9 Curzon Place, Shepherd Market, Mayfair, which was on loan from singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson. Four years later, The Who's drummer Keith Moon died in the same flat at the same age. Elliot was buried in Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Cass Elliot's contributions to rock music didn't go unnoticed as the Mamas & the Papas were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 (with Elliot's only child, Owen, accepting the award at the ceremony for her late mother). (Info edited from All Music & Wikipedia)