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Cass Elliot born Ellen Naomi Cohen ; September 19, — July 29, , also known as Mama Cass , was an American singer and actress who is best known for having been a member of the Mamas and the Papas. After the group broke up, she released five solo albums. Her family was subject to significant financial stresses and uncertainties during her childhood years. Her father, involved in several business ventures throughout his life, ultimately succeeded through the development of a lunch wagon business in Baltimore which provided meals to construction workers. Elliot's early life was spent with her family in Alexandria, Virginia , before the family moved to Baltimore when Elliot was 15, and where they had briefly lived at the time of Elliot's birth. Elliot adopted the name "Cass" in high school, possibly borrowing it from actress Peggy Cass , according to Denny Doherty. She assumed the surname "Elliot" some time later, in memory of a friend who had died.
With a clear, penetrating voice that was the linchpin of the musical group, "The Mamas and the Papas," and a girth that was almost legendary, actress and singer "Mama" Cass Elliot — will long be identified as an earth mother of the s. Called the Earth Mother of Hippiedom by fellow band member John Phillips, Cass Elliot brought charm and vocal muscle to a stormy and transitional period of American music history. In flowery print dresses of the mids, made tentlike to accommodate her great size, Elliot, born Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 19, , in Baltimore, grew to fame with the tightly harmonic vocal group the Mamas and the Papas. During their three-year reign at the top of popular music charts, the Mamas and the Papas melded folk and psychedelic styles in a quartet whose half-dozen remembered songs still evoke a time prior to the Chicago Democratic National Convention, when hippie ideologies of communal living and relaxed standards of dress and demeanor had not yet divided the recording industry or the nation along fierce political lines.
S he was the queen of L. Cass Elliot, 32, died in the early morning of July 29th in the London flat of Harry Nilsson, where she was living with her friend and road manager, George Caldwell, during her stay in England. She had complained to friends recently of frequent vomiting, possibly the result of dieting. That evening, when her secretary, Dot MacLeoud, failed to reach Elliot by phone, she went to the flat and found the body. Several persons, according to manager Alan Carr, had been in her apartment the morning and afternoon of her death, but thought she was asleep. Elliot is survived by a daughter, Owen, seven, from her first marriage to songwriter James Hendricks.