Singer/actress Michelle Phillips was Holly Michelle Gilliam when she arrived in New York in 1962 to become a model. The 17-year-old ex-California girl met and fell in love with Greenwich Village folksinger John Phillips, ten years her senior. After Michelle and John were married, she devoted her time to raising MacKenzie, John's daughter from an earlier marriage, and occasionally singing in John's group, the Journeymen. Upon that group's breakup in 1963, John and Michelle teamed with Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty, both formerly of the defunct group The Mugwumps and the result was The Mamas and The Papas. This new singing aggregation was a success from its first 1965 release, "California Dreamin'," onward. Other hits followed: "Monday, Monday," "I Call Your Name," "Do You Wanna Dance," and on and on. In 1966, Michelle and John broke up; by 1967 Michelle was living with Dennis Hopper, and within three years the Phillips were divorced. The Mamas and The Papas also dissolved around this time, with "Mama" Cass Elliot opting for a solo career. The group's individual successes (including John's briefly best-selling songs) were ethereal, however, and in 1971 The Mamas and The Papas -- including Michelle, -- reunited. The results were dishearteningly bad, thus Michelle renounced singing for good, hoping instead to make her mark as an actress. Michelle Phillips' later press coverage was due more to her high-profile romances with the likes of Warren Beatty and Rudolph Nureyev than to her acting, though critics were kindly disposed towards her performance in Nureyev's 1977 film vehicle Valentino.
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Cowrote some of the Mamas and the Papas most popular songs, including "California Dreamin'."
- Made her feature-film debut in Dennis Hopper's experimental The Last Movie (1970).
- Authored the 1986 biography California Dreamin': The True Story of the Mamas and the Papas, released only weeks after former husband John Phillips' autobiography Papa John.
- Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, along with Mamas and the Papas band members Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty and John Phillips.