Mama Cass Elliott (September 19, 1941 - July 29, 1974), born Ellen Naomi Cohen, was a noted American singer who performed with The Mamas & the Papas. She was obese most of her adult life.
Elliott was widely considered the most charismatic member of the Mamas & the Papas due to her sense of humor and optimism. She was one of the most beloved members of the group and, because of her incredible voice, was a large factor in their success.
Elliott was in love with fellow Mama & Papa's band member Denny Doherty. His affair with other married band member, Michelle Phillips, was the primary cause of the break-up of the band. Elliott resented Michelle's perceived betrayal of their friendship.
She gave birth to a daughter named Owen Vanessa Elliott on April 26, 1967 without naming the father.
Elliott was a close friend and neighbour of coffee heiress Abigail Folger, who was a victim of the Charles Manson murders. She was also close to actress Sharon Tate, writer Wojciech Frykowski, and international hairdresser Jay Sebring, all victims of the Manson madness in the summer of 1969.
After the breakup of The Mamas & the Papas, Elliott went on to have a successful solo career. At the height of her career in 1974, having just finished performing at the London Palladium theatre, she died of a heart attack (although it was initially reported that she choked to death on food, because a partially eaten ham sandwich was found by her bed). The coroner surmised her heart had weakened to the point of failure due to Elliott's weight and the effects of several crash diets over the years.
Elliott had been married twice. In 1963 she married James Hendricks; they divorced in 1968. (Hendricks had been a member of "Cass Elliot and the Big Three," later named "The Mugwumps") In 1971 she married Baron Donald von Wiedenman.
A popular myth was circulated about Elliott. While the Mamas & the Papas were touring as The New Journeymen (their name before changing it to The Mamas & the Papas), Elliott begged friend Denny Doherty to let her join the band. Though she had a great voice, the band's leader, John Phillips, didn't feel her voice blended well with the band's other female vocalist, his wife, Michelle Phillips. But Elliott followed the band wherever they appeared, even to an engagement to the Virgin Islands. Here, she was finally accepted into the band. The myth purports that while on the islands, a piece of copper tubing fell on her head and miraculously changed her voice. Though untrue, the myth has been repeated by such music professionals as Casey Kasem. Elliott was hit on the head with a copper pipe during a nightclub renovation, but it had no effect on her voice. The myth was apparently started by band member John Phillips as a justification for letting her into the band after initially refusing to allow her to join.