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The Mamas and the Papas: The Harmonies of the 60s

Here is the beginning of the bio of The Mamas and the Papas, perhaps the most important predominantly vocal group — alone, perhaps, with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young — of the 1960s.

The Mamas and the Papas were a major part of the Southern California pop scene of the mid to late Sixties. Along with the Byrds, the Beach Boys, the Turtles and the Association, they bombarded the Top Forty with superbly produced folk-pop songs delivered with lush harmonies. What made the Mamas and the Papas stand out was the mix of male (John Phillips, Denny Doherty) and female (Cass Elliot, Michelle Phillips) voices. Combined with sharp songwriting and arrangements from Phillips and musical contributions from some of Los Angeles’ finest session musicians-especially drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Joe Osborne and keyboardist Larry Knechtel-the Mamas and the Papas cut some of the most unforgettable songs of the Sixties. “California Dreamin’,” in particular, endures as an anthem of those heady times. (Read More…)

Here is what AllMusic says, in part.

The leading California-based vocal group of the ’60s, the Mamas & the Papas epitomized the ethos of the mid- to late-’60s pop culture: live free, play free, and love free. Their music, built around radiant harmonies and a solid electric folk foundation, was gorgeous on its own terms, but a major part of its appeal lay in the easygoing southern California lifestyle it endorsed. The group’s success was as extraordinary as it was brief, and onlookers may well wonder what went wrong with a performing group that seemed to have the world at its feet for all of two years. The irony behind the Mamas & the Papas‘ story is that the same forces that made it possible for them to create extraordinary music together also made it impossible for them to stay together for more than a short time. (Read More…)

Above and below are the group’s biggest hits, California Dreamin’ (above) and Monday, Monday (below). This version of California Dreamin’ was recorded on the television program Hullabaloo in 1966. The music is great and the video is fascinating. First, what’s up with the bathtubs? More seriously, the dancing — which seems sort of inappropriate for the song — suggests that television still was struggling to figure out how to deal the band, which seems amused by the whole thing.

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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