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I watched the recent PBS documentary on The Mamas and the Papas and they must be right up there with The Beatles as one of the greatest bands of all time. What an incredible collection of music for a group that was only together for a couple of years.
It’s amazing how young they looked in the 1960s. I had a professor who argued people didn’t get old with age, it just appears that way because older cohorts were always wrinkled and grey.
The genius of the group was probably John Phillips (more evidence that height and IQ are correlated) for writing those catchy tunes, but watching the documentary, it was Mamma Cass that stole my heart.
As a fat Jewish girl during a more anti-Semitic era, she must have wanted so desperately to fit in with these cool white kids, and I’m so glad they accepted her, as did America. Cass’s incredible voice added real value to the culture, as did her creative body language. I love when she introduces the song Creeque Alley and says “cue the tape.” Watch how she opens her moth wide and starts bouncing up and down in excitement for the song about to be played (Very Oprah!).
One of the things we learned in the documentary is originally, Cass did not even want to appear on stage with the slim blond blue eyed Michelle Phillips and would only sing from the back of the room. What an ego boost that must have been to Michelle, “you’re so beautiful, I feel ugly being seen with you.” Did Cass really have such low self-esteem, or was she a master manipulator who knew exactly how to make others like her?
After The Mammas and the Pappas broke up, Mamma Cass started a solo career, and probably wondered, who’s going to turn out to see a fat Jewish girl sing solo? The show sold out, two nights in a row! She was so excited she phoned Michelle Phillips to share the happy news. That night she died of a heart attack in her sleep at the age of only 32.
“I do know one thing” said Michelle Phillips. “Cass Elliot died a very happy woman”.
At that point I was so overwhelmed with emotion I had to turn the documentary off.