The Mamas & the Papas founder and mentor was born on August 30, 1935
The “Papa John” John Phillip’s controversial life
Talented but also controversial, The Mamas & the Papas founder and mentor, “Papa John” John Phillips, wrote and co-wrote some of the most memorable and best Pop songs in history. He was born on August 30, 1935 in Parris Island, South Carolina, and during the early 1960’s gained local popularity in New York with his folk band The New Journeymen that also featured Scott McKenzie who would became famous during the late 1960’s with the song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” written by Phillips. Based in Greenwich Village, during the American folk music revival, he met future The Mamas & the Papas group vocalists Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot around that time, After the New Journeymen called it quits as a band in early 1965, he formed the band “The Magic Cyrcle”, Six months later in September 1965, the group signed a recording contract with Dunhill Records. Changing their name to The Mamas & the Papas, the band soon began to record their debut album, “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears”. The Mamas & the Papas song “Creeque Alley” briefly outlines this history.In late 1965, Denny Doherty and Michelle Phillips started an affair. They were able to keep it secret during the early days of the band’s new-found success. After a continuing string of hit singles such as “Monday, Monday”, “California Dreamin’”, “I Saw Her Again” and “Dedicated to the One I Love” among several others, many television appearances (including a notable and critically well-received TV special featuring the music of Rodgers and Hart), a successful third studio album “Deliver” in 1967, and the groundbreaking sociological impact of the Monterey International Pop Festival (which had been organized by John Phillips and Lou Adler) in June 1967, an ill-fated trip to England in October 1967 fragmented the already damaged group dynamic. Cass Elliot quit, after a stinging insult from John Phillips, (although she returned to complete her parts for the group’s overdue fourth album, “The Papas and the Mamas”, which was finally released in May 1968). By then, Michelle Phillips had given birth to Chynna Phillips and a formal statement had been released, announcing the group’s demise.
After the break up of The Mamas & the Papas, John Phillips released his first solo album “John, the Wolf King of L.A” in 1970, although not commercially successful, it did include the minor hit “Mississippi”. In 1973 he moved to London, England, where Mick Jagger encouraged him to record another solo album to be released on Rolling Stones Records and funded by RSR distributor Atlantic Records. Jagger and Keith Richards produced and played on the album, as well as former Stone Mick Taylor and future Stone Ronnie Wood, but the promising project was derailed by Phillips’ increasing use of cocaine and heroin, which he injected “almost every fifteen minutes for two years”. His uncontrolled drug addiction hit it’s peak in 1981 when he was convicted of drug trafficking. He spent three weeks in jail, with time being reduced for good behavior and also to lead anti-drug campaign. During the 1980’s Phillips wrote the Beach Boys 1988 hit “Kokomo”, used as the main theme in the movie “Cocktail” The song was nominated for a Grammy Award (Best Song Written specifically for a Motion Picture or Television) and a Golden Globe Award for Best Song. Decades of drug abuse, led Phillips’s life to a premature end when he died of heart failure in Los Angeles at the age of 65 on March 18, 2001. Eight years after his death, controversial and serious allegations were made by his eldest daughter Mackenzie, when she claimed that she and her father had a 10-year incestuous relationship that began when she was 19 years old in 1979, in her memoir “High on Arrival”. Mackenzie wrote that the relationship began after Phillips raped her while they were both under the influence of heavy narcotics on the eve of her first marriage. Still according to MacKenzie Phillips. the incestuous relationship ended when she became pregnant and did not know who had fathered the child, resulting in an abortion. John Phillips was inducted as a member of The Mamas & the Papas into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Look back at The Mamas & the Papas performing “Calfornia Dreamin'” in 1966
Also watch: The Mamas & the Papas performing “Monday, Monday” in 1966 at The Hollywood Palace TV Show
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