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Subject: Archive: John Phillips, Mar. 18, 2001


Author:
Founding member, the Mamas & the Papas
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Date Posted: Thursday, March 18, 02:32:49pm

John Phillips, a songwriter and founding member of the 1960's folk-pop group the Mamas and the Papas, died yesterday at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 65.

The cause was heart failure, his spokeswoman said.

The Mamas and the Papas were a band of lovers, spouses and friends, which proved to be both their greatest asset and their undoing. In 1966, with their first single, ''California Dreamin','' the 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.

Mr. Phillips was a man of many contradictions: idealist, hedonist, businessman, musician. Two years before Woodstock, he was a producer of the Monterey Pop Festival, which propelled Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and a new era of rock and youth culture into the American mainstream. As a songwriter, he wrote music for the Grateful Dead, the Beach Boys and Scott McKenzie.

Mr. Phillips was born in Parris Island, S.C., and as a teenager was a fan of harmonizing mixed-sex vocal groups like the Modernaires with Paula Kelly. In the late 50's he moved to New York, forming a folk trio, the Journeymen, that played Greenwich Village coffeehouses (alongside Bob Dylan, members of the Byrds and John Sebastian) and recorded for Capitol Records.



At one such coffeehouse, he met a model, Michelle Gilliam. The two fell in love, and Mr. Phillips divorced his wife and married the younger model. Soon, the couple met another folk singer, Dennis Doherty, and his friend Cass Elliot. As Mr. Phillips liked to tell it, the four took LSD together for the first time soon after they met, and it formed a bond between them. They moved to Los Angeles to seek success.

In 1965, they were discovered by the producer Lou Adler and signed to his label, Dunhill Records. Mr. Phillips wrote their first hit, the irrepressibly catchy ''California Dreamin','' after a walk through Manhattan with his California-bred wife on a snowy day. It was soon followed by ''Monday Monday,'' ''I Saw Her Again'' and ''Creeque Alley,'' the band's oral history.

Mr. Phillips also wrote ''San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair),'' simultaneously a romanticized hippie paean and a G.I. homecoming song, for his former bandmate in the Journeymen, Scott McKenzie.

Though the Mamas and the Papas epitomized and help spread the hippie ethos, free love didn't help band harmony much when Ms. Phillips had an affair with Mr. Doherty. Ms. Phillips was fired from the band several times but went on to act in ''Knots Landing'' and other television shows. In 1968, the whole band broke up, then reunited in 1971 to fulfill contractual obligations with one album, ''People Like Us.'' Ms. Elliot (better known as Mama Cass) died of a heart attack in 1974.

In his 1986 autobiography, ''Papa John,'' Mr. Phillips chronicled his slide into drug addiction. In 1980, he was convicted of conspiracy to distribute narcotics and, after rehabilitation, reformed the group, which now included his daughter, Mackenzie. In the early 90's, his cumulative years of drug and alcohol abuse led to a liver transplant.



In 1998, the Mamas and the Papas were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. More recently, Mr. Phillips was trying to reissue late 70's recordings he had made with members of the Rolling Stones and had completed a new solo album, ''Slow Starter.''

Mr. Phillips is survived by his wife, Farnaz; three daughters, Mackenzie, Chynna and Bijou; two sons, Jeffrey and Tamerlane; and two stepdaughters, Atoosa and Sanaz.

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Replies:
Subject Author Date
Michelle Phillips, 76, is the sole survivor of the Mamas & the Papas (NT)Unless you count Jill Gibson, who was briefly a member in 1966 when Michelle was firedThursday, March 18, 04:29:22pm
Another accused 'pedo' celeb, who I have no love for.Daughter MacKenzie said at 11, Papa John shot her with heroin and later began incestuous relationship, abortion ensued.Thursday, March 18, 07:02:51pm


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