'The greatest white female singer ever' was how Boy George described pop icon Cass Elliot, also known as Mama Cass, the sixties diva who became the recognisable face of the Mamas and Papas. Hailed as America's answer to the Beatles, the Mamas and the Papas' hits like 'California Dreaming', 'Dedicated to the One I Love' and 'Monday Monday' became the soundtrack to the sixties. Cass's uniquely emotive voice, charismatic wit and outsized multi-coloured kaftans singled her out as a popstar who refused to conform to traditional female stereotypes. When she left the group her popularity was such that she immediately had a top 10 hit with her debut single 'Dream a Little Dream of Me' and socially she became the queen of Los Angeles society. Her Beverley Hills villa was the scene of legendary parties, becoming second home to Jack Nicholson, Ryan O'Neal, Grace Slick and David Crosby. But there was a darker side to her fame - constantly on a diet, battling a drug addiction, she died mysteriously in London at the age of 33.
Including interviews with Cass's friends and family, Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty from the Mamas and the Papas, and many of the famous names who knew her, this is both an insightful biography of an extraordinary singer and a fascinating glimpse into the free-living, free-loving ideals of the California hippy movement as the optimism of the flower-child generation was crushed by the Vietnam War.
Eddi Fiegel is a music journalist who writes for the Guardian, Sunday Times, Mojo and Uncut. She is the author of John Barry: A Sixties Theme.