My Mama, Cass: A Memoir

Hachette. May 2024. 304p. ISBN 9780306830648. $30. MEMOIR
Elliot-Kugell recounts both the saga of her famous mother, the Mamas & the Papas star Mama Cass Elliot (a.k.a. Ellen Cohen, 1941–74), and her own personal and professional life. She begins with Cass’s upbringing in a middle-class New York Jewish household and her dream of Broadway stardom. The book charts the rise of Mama Cass’s career amid the folk music boom of the 1960s. She performed with the bands the Big 3, the Mugwumps, and finally the Mamas & the Papas. The latter scored a No. 1 single (“Monday, Monday”) on a No. 1 album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears. Elliot-Kugel describes the implosion of the harmony-based group after three tumultuous years, Cass’s catalytic folk-rock role, her subsequent less-than-stellar solo recording and television career, and her death at age 32, when the author was only seven years old. She also reveals stories about her life as a child, raised by her aunt and grandmother, her own nascent recording career, marriage, and motherhood.
VERDICT A unique perspective from the daughter of a rock star. General audiences will get a fresh glimpse into the manipulative music business, which demanded ceaseless hard work, personal sacrifices, and a determined focus on glittery celebrity.
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