5 Noteworthy Songs Sung or Co-Written by The Mamas & the Papas’ Michelle Phillips

Sending out Happy Birthday wishes to Michelle Phillips, the last surviving original members of The Mamas & the Papas. Mama Michelle turned the big 8-0 on Tuesday, June 4.

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Born Holly Michelle Gilliam, she was working as a model in San Francisco in 1961 when she met singer/songwriter John Phillips of the folk group The Journeymen. After Phillips divorced his first wife, he and Michelle got married in December 1962 when she was just 18.

[RELATED: Why The Mamas & The Papas Hated Their Biggest Hit, “Monday, Monday”]

In 1965, John and Michelle co-founded The Mamas & the Papas with Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty. John Phillips was the group’s main songwriter, while Elliot and Doherty were the quartet’s lead vocalists. That being said, Michelle co-wrote a number of songs for The Mamas and the Papas with her husband. In addition, she occasionally stepped forward to deliver a lead vocal performance.

In 1968, Michelle and John had a daughter, Chynna. Chynna Phillips would go on to form the 1990s pop trio Wilson Phillips with Brian Wilson’s daughters Carney and Wendy.

Michelle and John had a turbulent relationship, and the couple divorced in 1969. The Mamas & the Papas broke up in that same year, although they reunited to record one more album to fulfill their contractual obligations. People Like Us was released in 1971.

During the 1970s, Michelle launched an acting career, but she did return to music before the end of the decade. She recorded several singles around the mid-1970s, and in 1977, she released her only solo album, Victim of Romance.

In honor of Michelle Phillips’ milestone birthday, here are five songs showcasing her vocal and songwriting talents:

“California Dreamin’” – The Mamas & the Papas (1965)

John Phillips came up “California Dreamin’” while he and Michelle were living in New York City in 1963. He brought his wife the partially finished tune, about yearning for sunny California while stuck in New York in wintertime, and she helped finish it.

The Mamas & the Papas released “California Dreamin’” as a single in December 1965. It also was included on their 1966 debut album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears.

The song became the group’s first hit, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s gone on to be one of the most enduring folk-rock tunes of the 1960s.

“Dedicated to the One I Love” – The Mamas & the Papas (1967)

“Dedicated to the One I Love” was a song written by Lowman Pauling and Ralph Bass, and originally was recorded by Pauling’s band, soul group The “5” Royales, in 1957. The Mamas & the Papas covered of the tune for their third album, The Mamas & the Papas Deliver (1967).

The song was a showcase for Michelle’s sweet, soft vocals. “Dedicated to the One I Love” was another big hit for the group, peaking at No. 2 on the Hot 100.

“Creeque Alley” – The Mamas & the Papas (1967)

Creeque Alley” was another tune featured on the Deliver album. The autobiographical song, which was co-written by John and Michelle, tells the story of the formation of The Mamas & the Papas.

The song’s lyrics feature references to all of the band’s members as well as several other musicians who emerged from the New York folk scene. They included Barry McGuire, Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, and John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky of The Lovin’ Spoonful.

“Creeque Alley” peaked at No. 5 on the Hot 100, and became The Mamas & the Papas’ last Top-10 hit on the chart.

“I Wanna Be a Star” – The Mamas & the Papas (1971)

“I Wanna Be a Star” is the only song by The Mammas & the Papas that Michelle Phillips is given sole credit for writing. It appeared on the group’s final album, People Like Us.

Michelle contributed lead vocals to the song, a folk-rock ditty with wry lyrics about a woman who wants to become a movie star.

“There She Goes” – Michelle Phillips (1977)

“There She Goes” was one of three songs that Michelle wrote on her 1977 solo album, Victim of Romance. The melodic, Latin-flavored ballad features soaring strings punctuated by castanets.

Phillips sings forlornly about a woman who’s the object of desire of a man for whom she may not share the same feelings.

“There she goes, running out with a fresh gardenia in her hair,” Michelle sings about the woman as she leaves her beau’s side. “Running fast to no one, nowhere.”

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