Though they spent an impossibly short four years together, New York City-based quartet the Mamas and the Papas' sunny tunes and intricate, elegant vocal harmonies have stood the test of time, making them one of the most beloved groups of the late-'60s and early '70s. The group was formed by Denny Doherty and John Phillips in 1965, after their respective folk outfits broke up. Originally known as the Magic Circle, the duo added Phillips' wife Michelle and "Mama" Cass Elliot shortly thereafter. Their 1966 debut, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, was an instant smash, flying all the way to the top of the Billboard Pop Albums chart. Driven by the success of singles like "California Dreamin,'" "Monday, Monday," and "I Saw Her Again," the effort catapulted the Mamas and the Papas into the spotlight.
However, it would not be smooth sailing for long, as John and Michelle Phillips' marriage feel apart, which resulted in the dismissal of Ms. Phillips. They hired Jill Gibson, who they sacked after only a few months, and brought Phillips back into the fold. The quartet hastily recorded their self-titled sophomore LP in London, and it was released just seven months after their debut. The album was a success, rising all the way to #4 on the charts, but the wheels were clearly starting to come off.
During the recording sessions of their next album, 1967's Deliver, members of the group, especially John Phillips, were struggling with alcohol and drug abuse. Deliver is widely seen as the last truly great album the band ever recorded, and by 1968 the group had split. They did release one more album before the split, The Papas & The Mamas, which has a more psychedelic feel then their previous work and was met with divided opinion from critics and fans. The group briefly reunited in 1971 to record one more album, People Like Us, to fulfill their five-album contract with Dunhill Records. The album flopped. After that, the group split for good with all the members focusing on solo careers.
Cass Elliot enjoyed the most successful solo career of the Mamas and the Papas, crafting five studio albums from 1968 to '72. Her burgeoning career was sadly cut short in 1974, while she was enjoying some of her greatest success. After enjoying two weeks of sold-out shows at the London Palladium, Elliot suffered a fatal heart attack in a flat in Central London. She was only 32.
Band leader John Phillips became a fairly successful songwriter, but his life was beset by substance abuse and personal controversy. He passed away in 2001 due to heart failure. Denny Doherty had a fairly pedestrian solo career, scoring a minor hit in 1974. He passed away in 2007. Michelle Phillips enjoyed a moderately successful acting career and is the last surviving member.