Goodbye to Denny Doherty.
The Mamas and the Papas, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, were one of the first major rock groups to include both women and men in equal performing roles, with Mr. Doherty, Mr. Phillips, Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot striking an image of casual, collegiate friendship. In reality, they were a destructive tangle of love affairs, accompanied by plenty of drugs and alcohol.Everyone loved Denny.
“It was an untenable situation,” Mr. Doherty said in an interview with The New York Times in 2000. “Cass wanted me, I wanted Michelle, John wanted Michelle, Michelle wanted me, she wanted her freedom. ...”
Here's Denny's own telling of the story of the Mamas and the Papas, if you can get to it. (I'm seeing "bandwidth exceeded.")
How well I remember when their first album came out. What an impression it made, including the amazing cover photo:
See the sign superimposed over the toilet. The original photo, with toilet in full view, was considered too scandalous. But we still have the four singers crowded into the bathtub. That's Denny, over in the corner, underneath the beautiful Michelle and the luscious Cass. What an amazing life lay ahead -- we thought -- if those four hippies could get in the bathtub together like that.
And drink out of the same hat:
"The Mamas and the Papas Deliver." What a great album!
Note the continuing theme of shared, water-containing vessels. What did that mean? Like everything else about the Mamas and the Papas, it meant a world of peace, love, and understanding, achieved through communal living and musical harmony.
Back in the real world, those sexual crosscurrents broke up the group. But there were a couple years -- 1966 and 1967 -- when they seemed exactly perfect. I'm sure my life would have been completely different if I had not gazed on those two album covers and heard the songs inside and wildly imagined what these people were singing about:
You gotta go where you wanna go,
Do what you wanna do
With whomever you want to do it, babe