Sunday, January 21, 2007

RIP: Denny Doherty

My recent attempts to discuss the current music scene are rudely interrupted once again, this time by a sad event. Denny Doherty, who rose to fame as the male lead singer of The Mamas and The Papas, died on January 19, 2007.

During the brief time the quartet recorded together, 1966 to 1968, they were one of the biggest musical acts in the world. Because I considered The Beach Boys a rock band, and more than just a group of singers, I have often stated that The Mamas and The Papas are the greatest vocal group who ever graced a recording session or took to the stage.

Their first album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears was one of the most popular debut albums of the decade.

The Mamas and The Papas weren't just singers controlled by a manager, producer, and a record company. Leader John Phillips was an excellent composer who wrote most of their songs and he also arranged almost all of the vocals himself. Phillips didn't like to sing lead so Doherty assumed that role. He is the voice out in front on two of Phillips early compositions, both huge hits, "California Dreamin" and "Monday Monday." When Doherty wasn't singing lead, their most famous member, "Mama Cass" Elliot usually did. Elliot possessed what may be the greatest female voice of the rock n' roll era and she showed it off beautifully on many of the group's hit singles, most notably on "Words Of Love" and "Dream A Little Dream Of Me." She also sang lead on one of their outstanding album tracks, a cover version of The Beatles' "I Call Your Name." The fourth member, Michelle Phillips, who was married to John at the time, may have been the least important member of the group, but even she proved her worth by taking the lead vocal on one of their greatest songs, the remake of "Dedicated To The One I Love."

You can purchase a superb 2-CD package released in 2001 titled, All The Leaves Are Brown: The Golden Era Collection. The set is a complete retrospective containing every song, in order, from every LP they recorded during the 60s and it even includes a B-side, "Glad To Be Unhappy," that never appeared on any of their albums. An excellent detailed biography accompanies the package. The remastered sound is remarkable. The set does not include People Like Us, the 1972 album reuniting all four singers, recorded only to fulfill their contractual obligation to their record company. The album was both a critical and a commercial failure.

The "sex, drugs, and rock n' roll" lifestyle led to the group's quick demise. John Phillips become a huge drug casualty and eventually he became a petty thief to support his habit. He died in 2001 at age 65. Elliott died young in 1974 of a heart attack related to her serious weight problem and now, with Doherty's death, only Michelle Phillips survives.

No comments:

Post a Comment