A few of us probably had a “California Dreamin” moment or two. But a gal named Ellen Cohen had one when a little folk group called The Journeymen decided to move there. Her first dream was New York City and Broadway. But had she stayed there, California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas would not have been created, as there would have not been a little group called The Mamas & the Papas.
Had a girl called Ellen not decided to make a stage name of Cass Elliot I would not have my Halloween costume this year. You see, this gal, inspired me to love who I am. She inspired so many. As the start of Penelope Bagieu’s (translated by Nanette McGuinness) book shows, a radio host is interviewing fans. They love Cass, joke about how she’s the “only female in the group that has a voice,” how they write to her every day, how confident she is.
And yet, Bagieu tells the vulnerable side of Cass and in black and white illustrations, we are taken on a journey from her childhood to the end of The Mamas & The Papas.. We see how Ellen Cohen had a voice that was going to take her to stardom. We see a girl who disliked pop music (sorry Elvis) and thought folk music horrific would later find herself right in the middle of the scene. We see her struggles with her first group, The Big Three (and yes, it is folk music, but there is something more as you listen to Cass as she blasts it out). And you can find out why the second group, The Mugwumps, faded into history. You see her relationship with her family (her beloved father, the pesky baby sister, her mother taking care of the extended family) and how her humor and large personality got her through a lot. We see a woman who crushed (loved) hard on boys she probably shouldn’t have. We see how her “adopted family” (John, Michelle and Denny) might not have bee all roses. And how she was a flower child: sex, drugs and rock-n-roll (okay, folk music).