Rock and roll veteran John Phillips of the ’60s group The Mamas and the Papas died of heart failure Sunday morning at UCLA Medical Center, his spokeswoman Elizabeth Freund told Reuters. The singer was 65.
Born in Parris Island, SC, on Aug. 30, 1935, he became an active participant in the New York folk community in the 1950s. He formed a band called the Journeymen, which included Michelle Phillips, whom he married in 1962.
Phillips then founded and became the main songwriter for the popular California quartet The Mamas and The Papas, whose most well-known tunes included “California Dreamin’,” “Monday, Monday” and “Creeque Alley.” The rest of the band included Michelle Phillips (they were divorced in 1970), Denny Doherty and “Mama” Cass Elliot, who died in 1974.
The Mamas and the Papas only played for three years, until 1968, but managed to have six top-five hits within that time. Although clearly of the hippie era, their soulful folk sounds were a testament to Phillips’ creative influences. The group was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
His friend and producer Harvey Goldberg told Reuters, “There was a sophistication to the style of the melody and lyrics he wrote that almost approaches poetry.” Phillips also has written songs for other artists, including the No. 1 hit “Kokomo” for the Beach Boys in 1988.
Ironically, Phillips was on a strong creative streak recently. He had recently completed an album of new material tentatively titled “Slow Starter,” and he completed a record he started over 25 years ago with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones called “Pay Pack and Follow.” It is set for release in May on Eagle Records in the U.K.
Phillips had received a liver transplant from his years of alcohol and drug abuse. But some tabloid reports suggested Phillips was waiting for another one. Phillips’ eldest daughter, Mackenzie Phillips, was with him when he died and said he went peacefully. She said in a statement, “We are all mourning the loss of my Dad. He was a genius and a good man and will be missed. I spent the morning with my sisters Chynna and Bijou. We are all on our way to the beach where we will walk and swim and celebrate our father’s life.”
The singer/songwriter is survived by his wife, Farnaz, three daughters, Mackenzie, Chynna and Bijou, and two sons, Jeffrey and Tamerlane. His daughter Mackenzie is best known for her stint on the TV sitcom One Day At A Timeand can currently be seen in the Disney Channel’s series So Weird. Chynna, another famous daughter, is a member of the reunited trio Wilson Phillips with Carnie and Wendy Wilson, daughters of Beach Boy Brian Wilson.