John Edmund Andrew Phillips (1935 - 2001)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: Parris Island,SC
Death: Died in Los Angeles,CA
Managed by: Geoffrey Trowbridge
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About John Edmund Andrew Phillips

Known as Papa John, John Edmund Andrew Phillips was a member and leader of the singing group The Mamas & the Papas. He was the father of Jeffrey Phillips, Mackenzie Phillips, Chynna Phillips, Tamerlane Phillips, and Bijou Phillips.Best known as a member of The Mamas & The Papas

Phillips was born on August 30th 1935, in Paris Island, S.C., the son of a military man and a housewife. From an early age, he showed great musical talent, learning to play piano and guitar. In high school he formed several rock and roll bands with friends, and knew early on that music was the only career for him.

On the completion of his education in the late 1950’s, John headed for New York and met two other singers, Dick Weissman and Scott McKenzie. The three formed a folk group called The Journeymen. The Journeymen toiled in the coffeehouses of Greenwich Village for several years, playing their own original music and the hits of others, but folk groups were a dime a dozen at that time, and John started to feel that they would never be noticed. During this time John also met his first wife, Susan. They had two children together, Laura, who would later be known as MacKenzie, and Jeffrey.

The Journeymen often played at a coffeehouse called the hungry i. That is where, one day in the early sixties, John met a model named Michelle Gilliam. He discovered that she could sing, and fell in love almost instantly. John was 26, and Michelle was just 17. He left his wife and children, and he and Michelle were married on December 31, 1962. A year later, they met folksinger Denny Doherty and began talking about a musical collaboration. The only sticking point was Denny’s good friend Cass Elliot. Denny insisted that Cass be included in any of their projects, but John, ironically, did not feel her voice would “blend in.” John changed his mind after Cass impressed him with a high note, and The Mamas and the Papas were born.

The group moved to Los Angeles, feeling that their sound might be better appreciated in California. They were right. Soon The Mamas and the Papas were discovered by producer Lou Adler, and on October 1, 1965, the group was signed to Dunhill Records.

Over the next few years, John Phillips became a hit machine. He wrote or cowrote many of The Mamas and the Papas' songs, and arranged wonderful versions of other artists’ songs for the group to cover. He and Adler were especially effective at choosing material for and bringing the best out in Cass, who became known for her beautiful but saucy ballads.

On February 1, 1966, The Mamas and the Papas hit Number 1 on the charts with “California Dreamin’.” It was followed by other hits such as “Monday, Monday” and “Go Where You Wanna Go.” Their album “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” stayed on the charts for longer than any Beatles album, aside from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” John’s old friend Scott McKenzie had a huge hit with John’s song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair),” a rather laughable (to many critics) paean to the California lifestyle. Indeed, John and his band mates weren’t just musicians, but symbols of the hippie movement. Their long hair and outrageous fashions were copied by young people across the nation.

During the summer of 1966, while they began working on their second album, the other band members fired Michelle Phillips and replaced her with Jill Gibson. But Michelle was soon back with the band and with Phillips. In June of 1967, Phillips helped organize the legendary musical event, the Monterey Pop Festival. Held during the "Summer of Love," the event drew many who were part of the burgeoning hippie scene. John Phillips had actually written a popular hippie anthem of the time, "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)," which was a hit that summer for Scott McKenzie.

The Monterey Pop Festival also served as a turning point for The Mamas and the Papas; it was the last time they all performed together live. In 1968, the band released another self-titled album, which failed to produce any significant hits. The Mamas and the Papas called it quits that July with its members going their separate ways. In 1970, John and Michelle ended their marriage.

After the group—and John's marriage—dissolved, Phillip's life went into a tailspin. He became hooked on heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and alcohol, according to his autobiography, Papa John, often got high with his teenage daughter, child actress MacKenzie Phillips.

By the end of the 70s, Phillips' lifestyle caught up with him. He was arrested in 1981 on drug charges, and spent time in prison as a result. After he was released, Phillips formed a new group, The Mammas and the Pappas, and begin touring with minor success.

Yet Phillips' relentless drug use continued, and it took a toll on the musician's liver. As a result, he was forced to undergo a liver transplant in 1992, which only delayed his ailing health. In 1998, The original Mamas and the Papas were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Three years later, after a continuing struggle with his health, John Phillips died of heart failure. He was 65.

He was survived by his fourth wife, Farnaz, and his five children, Jeffrey, Mackenzie, Chynna, Tamerlane and Bijou.

Phillips made posthumous headlines when his daughter, Mackenzie, accused her father of having a decade-long incestuous relationship with her during his later touring years. Family members deny the allegation.

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John Phillips's Timeline

1935
August 30, 1935
Parris Island,SC
1962
December 31, 1962
Age 27
1972
January 31, 1972
Age 36
2001
March 18, 2001
Age 65
Los Angeles,CA
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