Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mama Cass: Let's put the urban legend to rest.

Cass Elliot, known to most as "Mama" Cass---the big voice of the folk/rock band The Mamas & the Papas, died on July 29. 1974 in London, UK on an evening following a performance at the London Palladium. She was 32 at the time.

Urban legend suggests that Cass died choking on a ham sandwich. I'm sure it was easy to perpetuate the story due to her obese nature.

First, let's have some respect for the dead and leave the poor lady alone. Second, let's lay out the facts.

The urban legend started when police were heard commenting, soon
after finding her body, that a partially eaten ham sandwich was found in the room. However, the coroner's report found no evidence of choking, nor food, in her trachea. The cause of death was determined to be heart failure as she was sleeping. The coroner's report ruled out the possibility that any choking had occurred. So there it is.

I'm not trying to be humorless, nor am I holier than thou; as I'm guilty of having laughed about the "Killer Ham Sandwich" theory when I first heard of it... but what seemed funny at first seemed to change as I got more familiar with the music of Mama Cass and her contribution to The Mamas & the Papas---and music in general. In terms of the musicians and singers she influenced, there are too many to name.

Crosby, Stills and Nash dedicated their greatest hits album to her when it was released in 2005.

The world was stripped of a great singer who died at a very young age. She was 3 years younger than even jazz bebop legend Charlie Parker, whose drug escapades and self-destructive course are well documented. Mama Cass had the unfortunate curse of being overweight, with a heart that apparently couldn't take it.

She slipped into her dreams on her final night after two straight
nights of standing ovations in London. While she died very young, that's not a bad way to go. S

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