Lex Neon on Michelle Phillips (The Mamas and the Papas)

Just a quick memory and some words about Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas, whose birthday is June 4th. Happy birthday, Mama Michelle.  (And special thanks to Gerard!  Thanks for the correction.)

I honestly didn’t know it was Michelle Phillips until she turned to walk away. A song I had performed called “Butterfly” caught her ear. She walked over to me, complimented the song, and called it “beautiful.” I smiled and said, “Thanks. It’s a new song. I was really nervous.” She smiled and said, “Don’t worry. It gets easier after the first hundred times.”

She politely said goodbye, and walked away with a companion.

It was late ’94, and for the first time in 6 years of performing I didn’t have a band with me on stage to help entertain the audience. I had decided to take a “bold artistic step” and play my first solo acoustic set at a book store in Santa Monica, California. I was terrified of the thought of going on stage with only an acoustic guitar. I kept thinking, “What if I fail? What if I’m wrong, and I sound horrible all by myself?”

But this isn’t about me, it’s about what an iconic figure in my life gave me in the form of a few simple words of encouragement, words that have stayed with me to this day. I wish I had had the chance to also tell her thanks for being part of one of my favorite vocal bands ever. Her voice is the one way on top of the beautiful vocal harmonies of The Mamas and The Papas. Her voice is the sound that seductively lulls you in on their version of “Dedicated To The One I Love.”

Did you know that aside from co-writing “California Dreamin’” with her husband John, Mama Michelle was the member of the band that really loved rock and roll music? It’s true. If not for her showing the rest of her bandmates the merits of rock music, they might never have recorded “Do You Wanna Dance,” “The In Crowd,” “Dedicated . . .” “Dancin’ In The Street,” or “Twist and Shout.”

Look, everyone knows that I love Mama Cass. But I also want everyone to know that Mama Michelle holds a special place in my heart for her kindness and her inspiring words. I think of her when I sing “Butterfly,” and I remember that I met greatness.

Happy birthday, Michelle. Thanks for inspiring the younger me to continue “writing the good write.”

Oh, and for the record, aside from the broken G-string, the malfunctioning capo from hell, the burp that slipped out during a verse of “Fire and Rain,” frequent electrical shocks from the ungrounded mic, and the small fire, my first solo gig went really well.

Note: If the “listening to such and such music selection” were working as of the writing of this blog, it would say I was listening to Deliver, which as it turns out was Michelle’s favorite album by The Mamas and The Papas. It was released March 1967.

(Lex Neon is the musical mastermind behind the music of indie sunshine pop / rock band Poppermost.  For more info, go to http://www.poppermost.com/)

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~ by Poppermost on September 6, 2008.

One Response to “Lex Neon on Michelle Phillips (The Mamas and the Papas)”

  1. Michelle’s birthday is June 4th, not April 6

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