Mama Cass passed away 49 years ago, now her best friend confirms the rumors

Mama Cass Elliot, the powerhouse singer of the pop-folk-rock group The Mamas and the Papas, captivated the world with her magical voice. Alongside her bandmates, she defined an entire era of music and paved the way for other female musicians. While the circumstances surrounding her passing have long been a mystery, her good friend Sue Cameron has shed light on what really happened.

The Mamas and the Papas were not just any famous band; they were a phenomenon. With their hippie clothes, sweet songs, and unique personalities, they left an indelible mark on the music industry. Selling millions of albums, topping charts for weeks on end, and eventually being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, their success was unparalleled.

The Mamas and the Papas: A Musical Legacy

The Mamas and the Papas’ timeless music, including hits like “California Dreamin’,” “Monday Monday,” “Snowqueen of Texas,” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” will forever hold a special place in our hearts. However, the group faced their fair share of challenges, with their image tarnished by drug use and personal issues.

In their brief three years together, Mama Cass Elliot stood out as an exceptional talent. Her enchanting harmonies were the backbone of The Mamas and the Papas’ success, propelling them to greatness. Mama Cass also found success as a solo artist, but her life was tragically cut short at the age of 32, with early reports suggesting she had choked on a sandwich.

However, a recent interview with Sue Cameron, Mama Cass’s close friend, revealed the truth behind her untimely demise.

A Remarkable Woman: Ellen Naomi Cohen – Mama Cass

Born Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 11, 1941, in Baltimore, Maryland, Mama Cass was destined for greatness from an early age. Growing up, she displayed an extraordinary talent for languages, able to speak five by the age of four. Her parents, refugees from Poland, exposed her to various cultures and songs from around the world.

Mama Cass embraced her uniqueness, stating, “I’ve always been different… 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.” She possessed a precocious intellect and an interest in politics, even from a young age.

Mama Cass’s journey into the world of music began when she left home for New York at the age of 17. Although lacking a high school diploma, she pursued a career in acting and immersed herself in the vibrant entertainment scene. Eventually, her passion for singing took center stage, leading to her involvement with various bands and off-Broadway productions.

The Birth of Mama Cass and The Mamas and the Papas

In Washington D.C., Mama Cass formed a trio called The Triumvirate with singers Tim Rose and John Brown. They achieved success in both popular and country genres, eventually transitioning into the emerging folk music scene. During this period, Mama Cass produced an off-Broadway play and gained recognition for her talents.

In 1963, James Hendricks replaced John Brown, and the band changed its name to The Big Three, often promoting themselves as “Featuring Mama Cass Elliot.” Mama Cass also married her bandmate James, who was exempted from the Vietnam War draft. However, the marriage was short-lived, and the band’s dynamic changed.

Soon, Mama Cass crossed paths with Denny Doherty, who introduced her to John Phillips and his wife Michelle. Recognizing her extraordinary voice and harmonies, they formed The Mamas and the Papas in 1965. The group took the world by storm, beginning with their first hit single, “California Dreamin’.”

The Success and Legacy of The Mamas and the Papas

The Mamas and the Papas’ journey began in the winter of 1963, when John and Michelle Phillips found themselves in New York City. Feeling miserable, Michelle sought solace in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, an experience that sparked the inspiration for “California Dreamin’.” The remarkable songwriting collaboration between Michelle and John resulted in an enduring classic.

“California Dreamin’” was released in December 1965, quickly climbing the charts and capturing the hearts of fans worldwide. It remains an iconic song, honored with a place in the Grammy Hall of Fame and named one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest songs of all time. The group went on to release five albums, showcasing Mama Cass’s remarkable talent on beloved tracks such as “Monday Monday” and “Snowqueen of Texas.”

For Michelle, Mama Cass was more than just a bandmate; she was a source of support and inspiration. Mama Cass encouraged Michelle to believe in herself, asserting, “Go for it! You can do it! I know you’re gonna make it! I’ll be there for you!” She empowered Michelle, both as a musician and as a woman, instilling confidence and challenging the belittling behavior of others.

Mama Cass’s Solo Career and Legacy

In 1967, Mama Cass gave birth to her daughter, Owen Vanessa Elliot, raising her as a single mother. Shortly after, The Mamas and the Papas disbanded, paving the way for Mama Cass’s solo career. She explored various avenues, performing in Las Vegas, touring the country, and making guest appearances on popular shows like “The Andy Williams Show” and “The Johnny Cash Show.”

One of Mama Cass’s most famous solo songs was her cover of “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” which reached No. 36 on the charts. She aimed to shed her previous stage name from The Mamas and the Papas, leading her to title her last album “Don’t Call Me Mama Anymore” in 1973. Mama Cass strived for autonomy and artistic growth throughout her career.

A Tragic Loss and the Truth Unveiled

Mama Cass’s life took a tragic turn in 1974 while she was performing in London’s Palladium. Her close friend Sue Cameron recalls the joy Cass felt after receiving standing ovations and sold-out shows. However, the following day brought devastating news – Mama Cass had passed away at the age of 32.

Initially, the public was led to believe that she had died from choking on a ham sandwich. However, Sue Cameron, who was working as a columnist at the time, received a distressing call from Cass’s manager Allan Carr. He tearfully insisted that she must write about Cass choking on a sandwich, unaware of the truth.

Subsequently, it was revealed that Mama Cass had actually suffered a heart attack. Her daughter, Owen Elliot-Kugell, shared that her mother had experimented with dangerous diets, such as extreme fasting, shedding a considerable amount of weight in a short period. However, rapid weight loss can lead to muscle loss and potentially contribute to heart-related health issues.

A Trailblazer and Role Model

Around 400 people, including close friends like Michelle Phillips, attended Mama Cass’s funeral. She was laid to rest in Mount Sinai Memorial Park, Los Angeles. In 1998, Mama Cass Elliot was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, cementing her legacy as a music icon.

Mama Cass was more than just a singer; she was a symbol of empowerment and self-acceptance. Despite societal pressures, she defied weight-shaming norms and embraced herself for who she was. Mama Cass’s influence resonates to this day, inspiring women to break barriers and pursue their passions fearlessly.

Her daughter, Owen Vanessa Elliot-Kugell, reflects on her mother’s remarkable journey and the lessons learned: “She taught me, and others, not to accept it when someone says you can’t do something.” Mama Cass Elliot left an indelible mark on the music industry, and her music, charisma, and lovely voice will forever remain in our hearts.

Please honor the memory of Mama Cass Elliot by sharing her inspiring story with your friends and family.