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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.